Gender and Transitional Justice in the Philippines: A Reflection (Last of two parts) - Blueboard by Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza
Where we are
The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was in itself an innovative element of the peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Its Listening Process strategy operationalized the ‘victim-centered’ approach where collective stories from 210 conflict-affected communities in Mindanao were heard. Around 40% of those who participated in the Listening Process were women.
Uncovered narratives as regards patterns of human rights violations against women before Martial Law --- particularly in several communities in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur --- were rape, mutilation, and killing. During Martial Law, rape, abduction and sexual slavery, enforced disappearance and sexual abuse, and forced marriage to perpetrators and abandonment were committed against numerous women. A known case that was shared during the Listening Process was the Malisbong Massacre in 1974 where girls and women were said to have been brought into navy boats, raped while in captivity, and bodies thrown overboard after being killed.
Similar stories also were heard from Listening Process participants in Sibugay where women were allegedly taken from their families and held in navy boats docked in Labangan and Ipil ports to serve the sexual needs of soldiers. They were eventually released, only to be replaced by another group of women --- a pattern that went on for weeks. According to the TJRC, a formal investigation of various forms sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) committed during this period “is warranted to ensure accountability for past abuse and to prevent the recurrence of such violations in the future.”
SGBV during armed conflict is both a violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). Several truth commissions in South Africa, Peru, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Morocco, Guatemala, and Haiti have devoted a special section on SGBV in their reports in recognition of such mass atrocity crimes committed against women. In the case of the TJRC, highlighting human rights violations committed against women was a result of the application of the gender perspective in their analysis of issue-based narratives. Substantively, they contributed to the initial unraveling of women’s tragic lives during armed conflict that has long been hidden.
The TJRC submitted their Report to both the Philippine Government and the MILF peace panel during the tail-end of the previous administration. Three months into the current administration, there has been no concrete action as regards implementing the recommendations made by the TJRC. All that was said was that they will be implemented as part of the ‘six point peace and development agenda’ under the ‘culture of peacebuilding and conflict transformation’ initiative.
Nonetheless, there is a possible entry point for the gender-specific recommendations of the TJRC in this peace and development agenda and that is the commitment on “continuing the work of integrating gender in the peace process including the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.”
Where can we go
Let me break it down into two main points:
· Integrating gender in the peace process. The TJRC was a product of a peace process and as such, implementing their recommendations, is integral to the implementation of the peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the MILF.
In relation to the TJRC’s general recommendations specific to gender, they proposed the following: establishment of transitional justice institutions, namely, a National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission on the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB) and Sub-Commissions on Historical Memory, against Impunity and on the Promotion of Accountability and the Rule of Law, on Land Dispossession, and on Healing and Reconciliation which will all be assisted by a gender adviser as part of the NTJRCB Secretariat to ensure that the gender perspective is included in the work of these entities; and for the Sub-Commission on Historical Memory that will be created “to investigate serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, focusing, inter alia, on specific emblematic cases of mass atrocity crimes…and of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.”
· Implementing the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. According to the Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, “perpetrators of grave crimes against women should be held accountable for their actions so that women receive justice and future crimes are deterred” and that there should be recognition of the “importance of fighting impunity for crimes against women through criminal justice proceedings, while also recognizing the central role played by reparations, truth and reconciliation processes and in ensuring that victims and their communities heal and recover together.” These form the very essence of a gender-sensitive transitional justice.
The TJRC had 90 specific recommendations and those with particular attention to gender were on gender-disaggregation of IHRL and IHL violations and gender-sensitive memorialization initiatives, psychosocial healing programs, development plans, reparations program, and security sector reform.
There was also an explicit recommendation on women, peace and security where national and local agencies are “to institutionalize capacity building programs for women in the Bangsamoro towards their empowerment and recognition of their integrality of their rights, including property rights,” “support the future Bangsamoro authorities in continuing, strengthening, and expanding existing structures and mechanisms for women at various levels,” “ensure the meaningful political participation of Moro and indigenous women in national, regional, and local bodies,” and “enhance the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and include a Regional and/or Local Action Plan on UNSCRs 1325 and 1820 in the ARMM.”
Taken together, my point is quite simple: realizing gender and transitional justice in the Bangsamoro should be pursued comprehensively. The TJRC has provided the several gender-informed guideposts and the current government has committed to include gender in its peace and development roadmap. Beyond pronouncements and rhetoric, let us demonstrate that we are moving towards this direction.
(part 1 - Gender and Transitional Justice in the Philippines: A Reflection - was published on 13 September 2016)
Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza, Phd. is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science of the Ateneo de Manila University. She served as Senior Gender Adviser to the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission.