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Delivered at the WPP-CPE Public Event on Gender and Militarism in Asia: Linking
Regional Analysis to Local Practices in Pasig City
By Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
9 December 2015

Welcome and good day. Although the subject that brings us together has dark
undertones, still this is a most felicitous occasion greeting old faces and making new
If I may, let me start off with two quotations. The first is from English novelist
Martin Amis who wrote:
Bullets cannot be recalled. They cannot be uninvented.
But they can be taken out of the gun.
The second quotation is from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 2, verse 4,
New English Version and I quote:
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes
for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword
against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
I consider these quotes most apropos to introduce the difficult subject of gender and
militarism. The first speaks of disarmament, of a bullet-less or, shall I say, a gun-less society.
The second quotation goes beyond that. The prophet Isaiah envisions a time when nations
shall learn war no more, when weapons that kill become instruments that give life.
What words could be sweeter to the ears of peace advocates like you and me? But we
must start with reality, not fantasy. How can we speak of the lion laying down with the
lamb when, in fact, the lion is making mincemeat of the lamb in too many places within our
regional borders and around the globe?

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Feminism affirms that the personal is political and so, in the next fifteen minutes or
so, let me address the subject at hand gender and militarism by sharing my personal
narrative as it weaves into my countrys narrative. And I shall do this by raising three
questions: Where have I come from? Where am I now? Where am I going? And I could very
well speak in the plural sense because my narrative parallels those of many of my fellow
First - Where have we come from?
My generation of Filipinas, or Pinays as many of us like to call ourselves, had our
rude political awakening in the early 70s, courtesy of martial law. Baptism of fire may be
the more apt phrase. One day we were free: we could say anything, go anywhere, do
anything (or nearly almost anything), and that was that. The next day our lips were zipped,
leaving house entailed risks to our safety, congregating in small groups was suspect as
conspiracy. In short, we lost our freedoms. Just like that. And the enforcer of what to do and
what not to do was the military.
And so that was my introduction to the military close-up. The military was supposed
to keep us safe from external invasion, of which we have had quite a number, you know: the
Spanish conquistadors, and then, nearly the British empire, then the Americans, later the

But the military was in fact the prime instrument through which a dictator,

Ferdinand Marcos, bludgeoned his way into power and having tasted absolute power, clung
on to it for 16 years. His supporters now cannot dance around the fact that the former
Presidents term was stained by the blood of innocents.
Militarism, or the rule by force, by arms, the dominance of the military in policy and
governance was the ethos that infused the martial law regime. There was no room for the
contrary thought or action, for the discussion and debate that is the lifeblood of democracy.
For saying the wrong thing, or taking a wrong turn, you could lose your freedom, or worse,
your life. This was the fate that befell the political and ideological opposition and their kin
and friends, and their numbers are countless.
For the small mercies some claim martial law brought such as clean streets and
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superficial discipline, it inflicted far greater harm on the nation, including driving some of the
best and brightest of our youth into armed violence, a long and winding road that is often a
dead end
The country paid for martial law with its heart and soul, and a ravaged land. The
costs proved no less for individuals and communities. I had a taste of this as a young bride in
the incarceration of my husband, which was certainly nothing compared with the grief and
pain other families suffered.
In any case, the military became the executioner, the berdugo, of martial law, and
having tasted power through brute force, it developed a taste of power through governance
and politics. The term we used then was that the military had become politicized. This was
our home-grown definition and embodiment of militarism.
My political awakening was soon followed by my gender awakening, an initiation
into the faultline that divides women and men, pitting one against the other. The roots of this
gender divide reach far back into our colonial history and its feudal culture, reified in a
neocolonial economy that casts women as support system, as commodity, as subordinate.
Is it a wonder, then, that for me, and for my generation of feminists, these two
impulses militarism and gender empowerment became polar opposites and mutually
exclusive? Militarism and war and violence were the epitome of machismo and the alpha
male culture. Gender equality stood for womens empowerment, a caring economy, an
inclusive ethos. One stood for taking life and destruction; the other stood for giving life and
nurturance. How could the twain ever meet?
That is where I we came from in the 70s and 80s and it has taken three decades or
more for these paradoxes and contradictions in our lives personal as well as national to
come into full play, to differentiate into dead-ends and new beginnings, so that the task of
creating something new out of the old rings with greater resonance.
So - Where are we now?
In fact the twain have met, the macho male and the flower power female if I may
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risk a caricature. And how the twain has indeed met constitutes the narrative of my middle
and later years, and of this beloved country.
Why do I say so? Have I turned on the deepest of my feminist beliefs for political
pragmatism? I do not think so.
To answer that question, let me speak of my peace advocacy, along with my gender
advocacy which, as you may know, are the twin passions of my life. In the early-80s, I and a
bunch of feminists founded PILIPINA, which has been recognized as the first homegrown
feminist organization in the Philippines; and shortly after, I, along with a bunch of peace
advocates, and also feminist sisters, founded the Coalition for Peace, the first coming together
of peace advocates after the ouster of Marcos. One-and-a-half decades of gender advocacy
taught us that the gains from consciousness raising, street protests, and lobbying could all be
undone if we did not sit at the table of decision-making. One-and-a-half decades of peace
advocacy taught me that if we wanted to turn the instruments of war into instruments of
peace, we also had to sit at the same table of power.
Looking back now, I could say that my peace and gender advocacies converged and
conspired to land me a seat at that table of decision-making, as cabinet secretary for the peace
process, first in 2003 to 2005 under the Arroyo government, and second, in 2010 until the
present, under the second Aquino, or the P.Noy, government.
Working within government was, and remains to be, an eye-opener, to say the least.
But let me spare you the details for my time is running short and just highlight two things.
The first is that feminism has taught me freedom and daring.

Freedom means

freedom to think, to question, to aspire. Freedom holds no idols sacred. Feminists value
ideology: as a way of understanding things, and as a guide to change. But feminism eschews
ideology that shackles one to old ways of understanding and doing things, and renders one
impotent to embrace the new. Freedom makes the imagination soar; but one needs daring for
the body to move.
As a feminist in government, and even when I was outside government petitioning,
protesting, pamphleteering, I was beginning to sense that militarism was a bogeyman or
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should I say bogeyperson? That government is what we make of it, and if a government was
militaristic, it was because those holding the reins of power and they could be women (in
fact, in the Philippines, a woman president in very recent years) were, as we say in street
lingo, utak pulbura, hawks, believing in the Golden Rule of he who holds the gun, rules.
The challenge was not to bring the house down, to bring about the collapse of
government, but rather, to learn the masters tools, so to speak to learn the ways of
governance, and to transform the ethos and substance of government.
I truly am running out of time, so let me turn to my third and final question:
What about the future? What is to be done?
For peace advocates, and everyone else, in government, it is continuing the challenge
and task of security sector reform. That phrase sounds so nondescript security sector reform
but it packs a lot of wallop. For it spells the difference between a military that kills
dissenters, that is militarism, and a military that works for justice, development, and peace.
Security sector reform is governments attempt at being born again, if I may use the
phrase. Security sector refers, of course, primarily to the military, and its allied police force,
and including the coast guard. Cory Aquinos ascendance to the Presidency in the People
Power uprising of 1986 brought in new blood to government Jesse Robredo, for instance
and ushered in new hope in governance. It was simply a matter of time when fresh thinking
and new hopes congealed into new paradigms including, in very recent years, security sector
reform. And that encompasses not just security and defense but also our justice system.
I have no time to get into details but let me just say that our security sector affirms the
primacy of civilian authority over the military which I believe is nowhere as evident as in
its steadfast, full-hearted, and effective operational support for the Bangsamoro peace process
which is today led, on the government side, by women. Today the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, and the Philippine Army in particular, is pursuing a serious gender-anddevelopment (GAD) governance agenda under the Philippines National Action Plan on UN
Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Today, we take note, the
military is starting to draw some of the best and the brightest young people into its ranks.
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Finally, what word can I say to my colleagues in the peace and womens movements?
While I speak primarily of the Philippine context, I know it has a lot in parallel with other
countries in the region.
I have one word and that is: political engagement is the name of the game. We cannot
afford to remain political virgins whether on account of a misplaced sense of purity (politics
is dirty) or cynicism (it doesnt matter whos elected, theyre all corrupt anyway). We all
know that corruption is rife, poverty rampant, and injustice stalks the land. We also know
that terror and extremism have made their way into the body politic and our public spaces
through the Abu Sayaff and the Jemaah Islamiyah and the more recent Ansar Al-Khalifa
Group, and their bombings and hostage-taking.
The stakes in good governance cannot be higher, the stakes in security sector reform
cannot be sharper than at this time. Who will call the politicians to account? How can we
effectively quash, if not defang, terrorism if the machinery of government remains
unreformed, if security sector reform stalls in midstream?
Engaging in politics, in this instance electoral politics, also means seriously
examining our local and national candidates, and most especially our presidential candidates.
And to vote as if our lives depended on it, as they will, indeed. A candidates human rights
record counts for something because it will tell whether he or she will lean towards the rule
of law or the rule of the gun; and whether he or she will invoke the rule of the gun for the rule
of law - which perfectly describes the issue confronting one candidate, notwithstanding his
runaway popularity.
I have two final words. One is that militarism is not a monopoly of the right. The left
is also capable of militarism as manifested in its violent assault on civilians including local
officials and children watching a basketball game; its armed intimidation of public utilities
and private enterprises, including those on the scale of neighborhood sarisari stores, and
wage-earners, like teachers;

and, as we face elections, the imposition of so-called fees for

candidates to be able to freely campaign which certainly stands in the way of the democratic
will of the people. The Communist Partys New Peoples Army can do this, with impunity,
because they have the power of the gun.
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My final word is this: gender opposes militarism but gender, in my mind, is not
opposed to the military. And as gender seeks to work for good governance, gender must
affirm that security and defense are a vital part of governance, and transforming one means
transforming the other.
Violence stalks the land, we know, and bullets cannot be uninvented. But they can be
taken out of the gun. And, more than that, we must turn our swords into plowshares and our
spears into pruning hooks.
Fantasy? Yes. But, as a feminist, youve got to believe in fantasy, as the beginnings
of a new reality.
On this note, I am truly excited to hear the results of your consultation.
Thank you and good morning.

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