Let us be one with the countless women of courage whose stories need telling

Tanggol Bayi salutes Filipino women activists who persist in the struggle for human rights, justice and accountability despite the prevalence of state-sponsored violence against them.

In today’s forum “She Persists,” Tanggol Bayi features four outstanding young women activists who have defied the odds and survived repression through sheer courage, firmness of principle and the unstinting support of the people’s movement.

Hailey Pecayo, at 19, serves as the spokesperson of Tanggol Batangan which monitors and documents human rights violations in Batangas province and provides services to victims. After joining a fact-finding mission to probe the killing of a nine-year-old girl by soldiers in 2022, she was falsely accused by the military of being an NPA member and charged with violating the Anti-Terrorism Act and International Humanitarian Law. Just this November, prosecutors dismissed the ridiculous charges against her.

Dyan Gumanao, 29, coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in Central Visayas, was abducted with her fiancé Armand Dayoha in January of this year at a busy port in Cebu by armed men who introduced themselves as police operatives. They were surfaced after a week of detention and torture in a number of safehouses after a video of their abduction surfaced and went viral on social media.

Jhed Tamano, 22 and Jonila Castro, 23, environmental activists working to defend Manila Bay from ecologically destructive reclamation projects were abducted last September by armed men in Orion, Bataan, and held for 17 days in a military camp where they were coerced into admitting that they were rebels. Later surfaced as alleged NPA surrenderees at a press conference called by the NTF-ELCAC, they turned the tables on their captors by stating the truth about their abduction. They have since filed a petition for a protection order from the courts.

Just three days ago, we received news vindicating the ten human rights defenders whose acquittal from perjury charges was upheld by a higher court. Seven of these defenders are women activists—four from Tanggol Bayi and Karapatan, two from Gabriela and the last, a frail but staunchly principled nun from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. Some of them are with us today in this forum.

There are many other women victims of repression. Out of almost 800 political prisoners in the country, 158 are women. Others are victims of extrajudicial killing, abduction, enforced disappearance, illegal arrest and torture who cannot tell their story.

Let us be one with the countless women of courage whose stories need telling.