Justice and Healing Project culmination event gathers advocates and duty-bearers

12 12 2012

Justice and Healing, the two-year project supported by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights Program (EIDHR) ended with a conference that gathered women’s rights advocates last November 28, 2012 at the Bayview Park Hotel in Ermita, Manila.

Women’s Feature Service Executive Director Ms. Olive Tripon presented the Project Overview followed by Women’s Crisis Center (WCC) Consultant Ms. Theresa Balayon who discussed the J&H Approach as a work in progress. Then, Women’s Legal Education, Advocacy, and Defense (WomenLEAD) Foundation Atty. Claire Angeline Pauig Luczon

Atty. Claire Luczon presented the experiences of Legal Practitioners in dealing with VAWC cases in courts. Meanwhile, Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) was represented by Project Development Specialist Margaret Yarcia.

The event featured two forums, the first of which featured: Former RTC Judge: Atty. Adoracion P. Cruz- Avisado, Chairperson, Transformative Justice Institute; Lawyer: Atty. Minerva Quintela, OIC WomenLead Foundation; PO2 Abigail Rayala of Guinobatan, Albay; and Barangay Official: Ms. Josie Fallesgon, GAD Focal Person, Brgy. Sauyo, Quezon City.

Meanwhile, the second forum panel was composed of LGU partner: Ms. Lorna Mandin, Executive Director, Integrated Gender and Development Division of Davao City; Area Coordinator: Ms. Agnes Carlos – Butuan City; Paralegal: Ms. Vera Gesite – Municipal Arts and Culture Coordinator, Alburquerque, Bohol; Service provider:Ms. Marie June Castro, program officer, DAWN Foundation, Bacolod City; and NGO: Atty Arnold Abejaron, President of Men Opposed to Violence Everywhere (MOVE) Davao.

Mr. Margarito Raynera, Programme Officer from the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines then delivered closing remarks, through which he lauded the efforts of the Project Team and the participating organizations. For her part, musician Istarte Abraham presented a cultural performance.

The Justice and Healing project aims to strengthen components of the justice system to deliver rights-based and gender-sensitive services using the justice and healing perspective with respect to cases of VAW. #



2nd Ten Photos to Shake the World opens today!

13 08 2012

Happy Monday morning everyone! 🙂 We are accepting entries to the 2nd Ten Photos to Shake the World National Photo Competition starting today until September 13, 2012. This year’s theme is: Challenges and Triumphs in the Pursuit of Sustainable Development. Visit and ‘like’ the TPSW Page to know more!

Women’s groups open discussions on Justice and Healing for VAW victims

29 03 2012

As part of the women’s month celebration, the Justice and Healing Project Team hosted a forum-launch on its project Justice and Healing for Victim-survivors of Gender-based Violence on March 28, 2012 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City.

The forum aims to engage various groups – the police, barangay officials, and women’s rights advocates in a discussion to address violence against women (VAW) and the long journey in seeking justice and healing.

The program also served as the launch some of its project publications: “Springboards for Women’s Journeys Toward Justice and Healing: A Baseline Report” on the experiences of survivors and service providers including lawyers, prosecutors and judges with VAW laws, conducted by Women’s Crisis Center (WCC) and Women’s Legal Education, Advocacy and Defense Foundation, Inc. (WomenLEAD); “Compendium of Laws and Rules on VAW Litigation” compiled by WomenLEAD for the Paralegal Skills Training in VAW Litigation for Community Service Providers, and; Justice and Healing Legal Monograph — the first of three legal monographs on gender controversial aspects identified by WomenLEAD that need to be addressed.

The event gathered leading advocates against gender-based violence, namely Olivia Tripon of Women’s Feature Service (WFS), Atty. Claire Luczon of Women LEAD, Theresa Balayon of WCC. A response was given by Winnie Penaredondo, a VAW survivor/advocate .

The Justice and Healing project seeks to strengthen the components of the justice system to deliver rights-based and gender-sensitive services using the Justice and Healing perspective with respect to the VAW cases.

Funded by the European Union through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the project is implemented by WFS, WCC, WomenLEAD, and the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST).#

ASSIST accepts donations to flashflood victims

21 12 2011

ASSIST extends its sincere condolences to the families of the victims of flashfloods in Mindanao last December 18.

We are also accepting donations in kind until tomorrow, December 22. Especially needed are ready to eat food, blankets, medicines and clothes which will be coursed through our partner NGO, Balaod Mindanaw (Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw, Inc.).

To coordinate, please contact our Research and Knowledge Management Director Sheena Opulencia, 4038668 loc. 539 or email sheena@assistasia.org.

For other avenues to send help, please visit this link: http://www.adlsu.com/2011/12/18/15-ways-to-help-sendongs-victims-in-cdo-iligan/.

News Commentary: Inequality and Gender-based Violence Mark the Plight of South Asian Women

20 12 2011

by Paula Bianca Lapuz

South Asia is notorious for gender-based violence (Population Council 2004). Not even those who migrate abroad can escape such a destiny (Warsi 2011). These issues can be considered detrimental to national progress if women, who have great potential to contribute economically and politically, are constrained by various social norms (International Labour Office 2004).

In Afghanistan, Gulnaz, a young unmarried woman sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment after being raped by her cousin’s husband, was freed but not vindicated (Walsh and Basu 2011). In fact, she still faces threats to her life. Tremendous pressure from the international community elicited by a European Union-funded video containing Gulnaz’s story forced the government to pardon her.

Two years ago, instead of garnering sympathy, Gulnaz incurred the ire of her family and of the conservative Afghan society. She was accused of maligning her family’s honor and for bringing this fate upon herself. To complicate the situation, Gulnaz bore her perpetrator a child.

To regain her honor, she agreed to marry her abuser. While this serves towards her release, this does not guarantee her safety, as honor killing is permitted in communities in Afghanistan. Authorities say that there are hundreds of similar cases in the country (Walsh and Basu 2011).

Nearby, Pakistani women also face issues on gender inequality. Family planning is a taboo in Pakistan, where families with ten or more children are not unusual according to the Washington Post. Today, it is the sixth most populous country in the world.

In addition, women’s opinions are hardly ever considered by their husbands and his family, who live with them. Marginal improvements in fertility rates were recorded in recent years, but these still do not meet the annual targets towards a 2.2 children per woman ratio by 2020 (Brulliard 2011).

In India, around 500,000 female babies are aborted each year – almost the same number of babies born in the United Kingdom annually. This reflects how many in the Indian society still regard a girl offspring as inconsequential to achieving a better socio-economic status for the family (The Guardian 2011) (Boseley 2011).


The world is just four years away from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Deadline, the world blueprint for development, agreed upon by all member states and institutions of the United Nations. On women and children’s rights in particular, MDG hopes that by 2015, the child mortality rate is halved, women are empowered, gender equality is achieved, and maternal health is improved.

A recent study named India as among the top 20 countries that have made progress in areas of poverty/child mortality reduction and maternal health improvement (United Nations Millennium Campaign 2011) However, data also show that at least 37% of India’s population live below the national poverty line and 41.8% of its rural population are poor (UNDP n.d.).

These numbers are still high and women are especially vulnerable in this situation. And though efforts to prevent selective abortion have been in place for years, its continued occurrence exposes the need for a more effective approach.

If the government should succeed in its MDG targets by 2015, it must strengthen its education-information campaign on women’s rights. Punishing some people for child-slaughter without educating the society cannot alter well-entrenched cultural beliefs . Thus, education is still the long-term solution for this social ill.

Moving to Afghanistan and Pakistan, extreme conservatism and sectarian beliefs make it even more difficult for women to rise from their predicament. Although incremental efforts are being launched by the government to tackle women’s rights violations, drastic changes need to be seen.

In both countries, leaders need to address not only questions of national security, but moreso, issues of vulnerable groups. Their governments should to step up in their initiatives to close gaps on gender equality because inaction can only mean worse suffering for the marginalized.

Works cited

Boseley, Sarah. The Guardian/News/World News/India. May 24, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/24/india-families-aborting-girl-babies (accessed December 15, 2011).

Brulliard, Karin. The Washington Post. December 15, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/family-planning-is-a-hard-sell-in-pakistan/2011/11/08/gIQANeGcuO_story.html (accessed December 15, 2011).

International Labour Office. Global Employment Trends for Women. Evaluation, International Labour Office, 2004.

Population Council. “Population Council.” Population Council. June 2004. http://www.popcouncil.org/pdfs/popsyn/PopulationSynthesis1.pdf (accessed December 15, 2011).

The Guardian. The Guardian/News/Global Development/Poverty Matters Blog. 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/jul/22/india-sex-selection-missing-women (accessed December 15, 2011).

UNDP. United Nations Development Programme/Poverty Reduction. http://www.undp.org.in/whatwedo/poverty_reduction (accessed December 15, 2011).

United Nations Millenium Campaign. End Poverty: 2015 Millenium Campaign. June 22, 2011. http://www.endpoverty2015.org/en/node/896 (accessed December 16, 2011).

Walsh, Nick Paton, and Moni Basu. CNN/ASIA. December 15, 2011. http://edition.cnn.com/2011/12/14/world/asia/afghanistan-rape-victim/index.html?hpt=ias_c1 (accessed December 15, 2011).

Warsi, Sayeeda. The Guardian. December 14, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/14/forced-marriage-illegal-uk (accessed December 15, 2011).

Remembering the (un)Forgotten: A Commentary on the Maguindanao Massacre

12 12 2011

News Commentary from the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) Research and Knowledge Management (RKM) Team

by Paula Bianca Lapuz

This year marks the second anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre which resulted in 58 deaths, 32 of whom were media members and 26 others were civilians. Worldwide, November 23, the date of the bloodbath, has become the International Day to End Impunity (Malig 2011).

The Philippines has been tagged in the recent years as the most dangerous place for journalists (Gonzaga 2010 and Papa 2009). A study published in 2008 noted that half of the 77 media killings since 1986 were committed from 2001 to 2008 alone (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility 2008). Indeed, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibilityargues that while the Philippine press enjoys the freedom of expression as with any other democratic society, killing of journalists persists especially in rural areas (CMFR 2008).

The Ampatuan massacre demonstrates the power and vulnerability of the media. Journalists were not killed in Ampatuan, Maguindanao by chance. Thinking that a media convoy can shield them, the kin of then aspirant for governorship Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu faced the odds to submit the certificate for candidacy. In what is now an infamous massacre, they were all killed on their way.

Mangudadatu has since burned bridges with the Ampatuan clan, the ruling family in the province. The Ampatuans are being tried, but the murder remains unresolved. Families of the victims still bear the torment of injustice.

Ampatuan province is part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, an area ceded to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the former rebel organization that sought its creation, in 1992.


More than anything else, the one glaring message of the Ampatuan massacre is that democracy has failed in ARMM. In fact, ARMM is a failed project altogether.

The media is said to be the watchdog of the society. This is why in every attempt at declaring a martial rule, the first enterprises and institutions to be seized by the State are the media establishments.

Information is power, and it is the media that provides information. And because a free press is one of the measures of a mature democracy, the Ampatuan massacre is the ultimate proof that our national government has failed in ensuring the emergence of a democratic local government in the ARMM.

Furthermore, political stability is a pre-condition for economic growth. Unless political issues are addressed, it is certain that ARMM will not see better days ahead. In fact, it remains to be among the poorest regions in the country, slipping to the second spot in 2009, following the CARAGA region (Macabalang, 2011).

It has been two years since the massacre,  but no one has been punished for the atrocity. For a very high-profile case committed in broad daylight, how hard can it get to arrive at the truth? The Philippine justice system has been disappointing time and again, and one can only hope that before the year ends, significant progress should have been made on the investigation.

Works cited:

Macabalang, A. G. (2011, July 13). Main News. Retrieved December 08, 2011, from Manila Bulletin: http://www.mb.com.ph/node/326662/caraga-now-poore

Malig, J. (2011, November 23). ABS-CBN News. Retrieved November 24, 2011, from http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/11/22/11/ampatuan-massacre-becomes-global-focus-journalists

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Philippine Press Freedom Report 2008. Assessment, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, 2008.

Gonzaga, Robert. The Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 24, 2010. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20101124-304957/PH-Most-dangerous-place-for-journalists (accessed November 24, 2011).

Papa, Alcuin. The Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 25, 2009. http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20091125-238302/RP-most-dangerous-place-for-journalists-to-workwatchdog (accessed November 24, 2011).

Justice and Healing Project goes to Davao

5 12 2011

The Justice and Healing (J&H) Project launched back to back activities in Davao City last December 2 and 3, 2011 for the Mindanao leg of its visibility and education campaigns.

J&H is a project funded by the EU’s (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) Programme and implemented by the Women’s Feature Service (WFS) – Project Lead, Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) , Women’s Crisis Center (WCC), and 3) Women’s Legal Education, Advocacy & Defense Foundation, Inc. (WomenLEAD).

It seeks to strengthen components of the justice system to deliver human rights-based and gender-sensitive services using the justice and healing perspective with respect to VAW cases, and recognizes the crucial role of barangay-level service providers and duty-bearers in creating a violence-free community.

This approach to dealing with survivors of gender-based violence was introduced in a visibility campaign for women advocates, law enforcers and lawyers held at the Grand Men Seng Hotel in Matina, Davao City, and a forum held at the barangay hall of Brgy. Buhangin.

ASSIST was represented by Communications and Visibility Associate Meg Yarcia. #