Honorable Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Speaker of the Parliament Atty. Ali Pangalian Balindong, Executive Secretary Abdulraof Macacua, Maguindanao 1st District Representative Datu Roonie Sinsuat, Maguindanao Governor Bai Meriam Sangki-Mangudadatu represented by Bai Fairodz Imam, President of the Maguindanao Alliance of Heroic Agila Ladies or MAHAL, Members of the Parliament, Ministers and Heads of offices, peace partners from the international donor community, civil society, specially the WeAct 1325 represented by its National Coordinator Ms. Elizabeth Yang, religious sector and academe, other guests,

Good morning.

Today is day 1 of the annual 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women, or VAW. And it is such a great privilege to be standing here in front of all of you and lead the fight for a VAW-free community.

I consider this privilege, and our gathering here today for a noble cause, as gains of what we have painstakingly worked for – the Bangsamoro Organic Law or the BOL. The passage and ratification of the BOL is a result of the countless ordinary women and men from the grassroots and community whose names will never be written into the history books or chiseled on monuments, but who dedicated their lives to ensuring that just and lasting peace will reign in the Bangsamoro homeland.

I was never part of the panel ​which negotiated for the BOL, but I, along with thousands of Bangsamoro women, some of whom walked barefoot under the heat of the sun, lobbied and rallied for the passage and ratification of the law. They did this because, just like anyone of us, they are already very tired of running and seeking cover every time armed confrontation between government troops and Bangsamoro groups erupted.

The 5 decades of armed conflict had devastating effect on women. The Martial Law in 1972, the All-out-War in 2000, the Buliok in 2003, the MOA-AD failure in 2008, the Zamboanga Siege in 2013, the Marawi siege in 2017, and the so-called SPMS Box in Maguindanao which has been historically designated by the security sector as a “no-mans” land – in each of these conflict, women have been known to receive the hard end of the stick. They are faced with the daunting task of keeping their families together after displacement, providing food, clothing and shelter in what is in most instances, destroyed infrastructure, for their children and their families.

Beyond these events in the history of the Bangsamoro struggle are realities which Bangsamoro women have to live with and these are the wounds of war which have not healed, poverty, underdevelopment and violence. Bangsamoro women continue to be seen as victims of conflict that need to be protected and kept safe rather than agents of change for peace and development.

Since Bangsamoro women experience more the impact of conflict, it is therefore of great importance that they begin to play a significant role in curbing violence; not only for themselves but for their children and communities at large.

It is every Bangsamoro woman’s rights to be actively included and involved especially in this period of transition where peace and development efforts are geared towards rebuilding communities, regaining trust and moving forward. The inter-linkages between women’s development, peace, security and human rights cannot be denied.

With these, it is therefore imperative that we know where the Bangsamoro women are, how they are and where do we lead them to better their lives and their status as mothers, as wives, as protectors of families and communities.

As projected, Bangsamoro women constitute more than half or 50.1% of the total population in the region as of July this year. The projection is based on the result of the actual census of population conducted in 2015 which reveal a total population of three million seven hundred eighty one thousand three hundred eighty seven and is projected to increase this year to four million ninety seven thousand nine hundred fifty seven.

Out of this projected increase, the female population is two million fifty five thousand five hundred sixty eight. About 55% of the total female population belong to the reproductive ages or economically active persons between 15 to 64 years of age.

Of this figure, 51,747 are registered as solo parents under the program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). These women solo parents are either widows or are divorced from their husbands.

45% or 3,887 of this female in the reproductive ages are employed in the government service either as permanent, co-terminous, casual, contractuals, job order and project-based, majority of whom, if not all, will be included in the phasing-out process. The greater number of these employed women, numbering 898 as of July 2019, are under project-based status, which means that more Bangsamoro women are taking on field works as compared to men.

In the agricultural sector, 6,246 Bangsamoro women are being assisted since 2016 through livelihood program and skills training. These women earn an average of P3,000-P4,000 income per month, which, when apportioned for the entire month, would provide them and their families a daily spending of only P133.

In the security sector, of the 175 female officers in the Philippine Army under the 6th Infantry Division, 15 are Bangsamoro women. Of the 1,047 female officers in the Philippine National Police in the BARMM, only 6 are Bangsmoro women in decision-making positions and only 3 are assigned as Chiefs of Police and in the operation.

In many conversations with Bangsamoro women, the job of enforcing the law and of securing the land are viewed by many Bangsamoro women as only for the men. The rigorous training that they will have to go through further give them reservations. Thus, only very view women join the service.

In education, women and young girls outnumber men and young boys in terms of attendance to public elementary and secondary schools. As of 2019, there are 295,363 females enrolled in elementary grade which is .017% higher than the male enrollees.

In junior high school, there are 79,258 female enrollees as compared to 64,976 males while in senior high school, the number of female enrollees is 16,275 while that of the males is 12,147.

The number of female teachers in public elementary and secondary levels is also greatly higher than the number of male teachers. Out of the 22,292 total number of teachers, 22,262 or 99.8% are female.

In terms of access to maternal health care, the situation of Bangsamoro women giving births is depressing. In the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey, of the total number of births, only 34% were delivered by skilled service provider, 28% delivered in birth facilities, and 64% of women who gave birth received post-natal check up within 2 days after delivery.

In terms of politics and governance, there are 221 women elected in provincial and municipal posts or 217% lower than the number of men as elective officials which is 1,016. This is based on the result of the 2019 local election.

In the Bangsamoro Transition Authority or BTA, of the 79 Members of the Parliament, 13 are women, 2 of whom are the Minority Floor Leader and Assistant Majority Floor Leader, respectively, while 2 others are concurrent heads of 2 major services- the social service and science and technology.

One position of power in the office of the Interim Chief Minister, the Attorney General, is being occupied by a woman.

This is indicative of the recognition of the significant role and contribution of Bangsamoro women in governance.

On September this year, 12,000 MILF forces underwent the second phase of the decommissioning process. Of this figure, 106 are women who are members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxilliary Brigade or BIWAB and are beneficiaries of socio-economic programs such as livelihood, skills training and study grant.

On the incidence of violence against women or VAW, there has been a decrease in the number of reported VAW from 2016 to 2018, albeit very low. From 109 in 2016, it dropped to 95 in 2017 and to 67 in 2018. Of these reported incidence, only 40% of the cases were filed. Accordingly, the remaining 60% was either amicably settled or not pursued because the victims were no longer interested.

The report shows high rate of sexual violence and of the 5 provinces of the BARMM, the incidence of rape is reportedly highest in Maguindanao and lowest in Basilan and Lanao del Sur for the last 3 years.

In Maguindanao, the most common victims of rape are minors, between 4-14 years of age. The reported perpetrators are either neighbors or relatives of the victims. From 2016 to 2018, more than 50% of the reported cases of rape were blottered for record purpose only and not for the purpose of filing criminal charges. Accordingly, the parents and guardians of the victims merely wanted to teach the perpetrators a lesson so that they will not do it again.

In Sulu, violence against women has taken its worst form. In August this year, a wife who was 3-months pregnant was shot to death by her own husband out of jealousy in Patikul. The killing was even videoed by one of the 3 men who assisted the husband and was uploaded in the facebook. The video went viral. Two months after, in Panamao, another wife was also shot to death by her brother-in-law when she attempted to avenge the killing of her husband by his own brother.

These incidents present a picture of a segment of our society which has yet to fully realize the importance of women and of valuing human rights. We do not want to be a society like others where cows are sacred and women are dispensable.

Beyond BARMM, there are Bangsamoro women who are in difficult situation. In the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City, 203 Moro women have been sentenced from reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua for violation of Republic Act No 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act.

These women have to grapple with systems, practices and policies crafted with men in mind- because they comprise majority of inmates- and this can have a negative impact on the family they left behind.

Most of these convicted Bangsamoro women have already served their minimum sentence and are appealing for legal assistance so that they can petition for commutation of their sentence.

Abroad, Overseas Filipino Workers or OFW from the region constitute 2.1% of the total OFW, or 48,300 out of the 2.3 million Filipinos working overseas, as of 2018. Of this 2.1%, more than half are Bangsamoro women who have chosen to leave their loved ones behind in pursuit of better opportunities abroad for the sake of their families. They hope that after years of toiling in a foreign land, they will be able to come home and enjoy the fruits of their hard-earned labor. Some of these Bangsamoro women OFW have successfully returned—with savings and investments sufficient enough for them to decide not to renew their contracts abroad. Some are not as successful, while others still end up penniless and drowned in debt.

The Bangsamoro Government, through the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women or RCBW, has been responding to these challenges by means of maximizing available resources, facilities, and opportunities in this period of transition.

First, in terms of protection and prevention, there are existing 6 Women Peace Centers in the region, 5 of which are located in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the other one is within the OCM compound which also serves as an office of the RCBW. These centers were constructed to provide temporary shelter for victim-survivors of VAW and to serve as training center to further capacitate our women. However, of the 5 provincial women centers, 3 are functional and these are the centers in Maguindanao, Basilan and Sulu. The center in Lanao del Sur is being occupied as an office of the Commission on Election and the Regional Human Rights Commission, contrary to the provision of the Tripartite Memorandum of Agreement between OPAPP, ARMM and the Provincial Government.

The center in Tawi-Tawi is located in Panglima Sugala and does not have its manual of operation yet. It was turned over by the Provincial Government of Tawi-Tawi to the Municipal Government of Panglima Sugala which will manage the operation of the center.

Second, there are measures passed and approved by the ARMM government which are still being implemented but currently undergoing review and updating in view of the evolving contexts and emerging issues on women. These are the Gender and Development Code and the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

This Gender and Development Code, or the GAD Code, is a piece of legislation that consolidates local ordinances related to women and gender equality and which guides agencies and LGUs in identifying policies, plans and programs to address gender issues.

The Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, or RAP-WPS, is the operationalization of our commitment under 2 significant United Nation Security Council Resolutions- the Resolutions 1325 and 1820. 1325 calls for more women participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace building while 1820 directs all parties to conflict to cease and desist from committing acts of sexual violence against women and girls in situations of armed conflict.

The implementation of these instruments have to be sustained because they are already milestones in our efforts towards promoting Gender, Women, Peace and Security. Our implementation experience was referred to by other regions and other country as well, such as the Solomon Island Group which also implement WPS.

Third, the RCBW and the Ministry of Interior and Local Government or MILG have been mentoring regional line agencies and local government units in terms of proper utilization of their respective 5% GAD budget, to ensure that programs, projects and activities of every agency and LGU are gender-sensitive and gender-responsive.


The Bangsamoro women did not march for the passage and ratification of the BOL by accident and as mere compliance. In their own right, they are leaders with the eye of a strategist and the heart of a warrior. They are the everyday countless ordinary people that are bringing the Bangsamoro closer to its highest ideals.

The fight for a VAW-free community is not just the fight of the women but also of the men. We cannot do this alone. We need the cooperation of everyone. And it is when everyone is on-board that we will see a fruition of what we have been working hard for – a VAW-FREE BANGSAMORO AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO.

Thank you very much and Wasallam.