Saturday, March 05, 2016


IS there a women’s vote?

Proclamation No. 227, series 1998, recognizes “Women’s Role in History” in March. This year, the theme for Women’s Month is “Kapakanan ni Juana, Isama sa Agenda”.

The challenge to include the welfare of women in the agenda for governance has set my choices for the May 9 poll. The welfare of women and children is not among the 10 issues listed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as national priorities that should guide voters in selecting the next Philippine president.

However, a re-examination of the Inquirer’s agenda for the 2016 election reveals that women’s welfare is embedded in all issues. Poverty, which tops the list, is rooted in inequality, according to studies cited by the paper.

While others argue that women are also part of national concerns and dismiss singling out this sector, I contend that this perception also contributes to the problem of marginalizing women.

If victims have a gender, it would be female. In poor families, they are beasts of burden, sexual slaves without rights to their bodies, and victims of domestic abuse.

Saddled with children and less education and opportunities, many women are sidelined by men in the competition for jobs, livelihood, and security.

Society expects women not only to survive but also to provide for their children’s upbringing, education, nutrition, health, and safety. Society makes excuses for men, and dumps all the blame on women.

When peace and order break down, traffic congests, and predators prowl the Net, who are the most vulnerable? Women and children.

So why should the welfare of women be assumed and taken for granted in national development when social ills put women and their children at the top of the list of victims?

As early as October 5, 2015, when she accepted to run with the Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas, I already voted in my mind for Leni Robredo.

Of all the contenders for the top posts—of the vice-presidency, as well as the presidency—she alone has the integrity. For more than a decade, she worked with the Public Attorneys’ Office, the Naga chapter of Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Pang Legal (Saligan), the Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga, the Naga City Council for Women, and the Federacion International de Abogado.
Through alternative lawyering, she served the powerless: farmers, women and children.

After graduating from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, she returned home to Naga. She was shortlisted as a presiding judge for any of the three regional trial courts in the Bicol region when she was thrust into the limelight by the accidental death in 2012 of her husband, former Naga City mayor and interior secretary Jesse Robredo.

Her public and personal life meshes in her campaign agenda of zero hunger, shared prosperity and gender equality. If Leni served then in anonymity, with few resources, and no political backers, imagine her potentials and opportunities as vice-president. Leni’s “tsinelas” advocacy deserves to be spread throughout the country.

Two of the five presidential contenders are women. Neither Grace Poe nor Miriam Defensor-Santiago will get my vote.

More than anything, I question these women’s choice of vice-presidential running mate. For choosing Bongbong Marcos—who compounds the sins of his parents with his historical lies and lack of atonement for the past—shame, shame, shame, Miriam.

( 09173226131)

*First published in the March 6, 2016 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column of Sun.Star Cebu, “Matamata”

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