IN NUMBERS: Women in PH politics

Fritzie Rodriguez

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IN NUMBERS: Women in PH politics
In the past 6 elections – from 1998 to 2013 – more men have participated and won than women

MANILA, Philippines – How many women are in politics? 

As we celebrate Women’s Month this March, we take a look at the gender divide within Philippine politics.

The Philippines ranked 17th worldwide and 3rd in Asia in terms of political empowerment, according to the 2015 Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum.

The “political empowerment” category measures the gap between women and men at the highest level of political decision-making. Such measure, however, does not include data on the local level.

Overall, the Philippines ranked 7th in the Global Gender Gap Index, as measured in terms of gender equality, political empowerment, health and survival, economic participation and opportunity.

Does this mean that women are truly equally represented in the government?

In the past 6 election years – from 1998 to 2013 – there have always been more men than women participating and winning the elections, according to data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In 1998, there were 17,512 government seats available. Of the 63,531 candidates who ran that year, only 14.3% were women.

Have things changed since then? In 2013, the percentage of women candidates rose to 17.82%. This means over 36,000 men gunned for seats, while only less than 8,000 women did.

Although there is improvement, such figures reveal stark truths about gender and governance in the Philippines.

If we break up the figures, it is clear that men still dominate Philippine politics.

Percentage of elected officials in the Philippines

Source: Comelec

Election year Women Men
1998 16.15% 83.85%
2004 16.63% 83.37%
2010 18.56% 81.44%
2013 19.92% 79.75%

In 2010, there were only two women elected to the Senate. In 2013, there were 4. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, 60 women sit next to 174 men.

Given such conditions, advocates cannot help but ask what kind of laws are prioritized in Congress.

It is important to note, however, that there are men who champion women’s rights such as reproductive health (RH) advocate Edcel Lagman. At the same time, there are also women who oppose pro-women laws like Senator Nancy Binay, an RH and divorce law critic.

The gender divide is not only visible among national positions, but also at the local level.   

Even among city councilors, there exists a large gap. In 2013, there were 1,269 male councilors and only 329 women.

As for voter turnout, women have maintained a slight lead in the past 4 elections, according to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).

Women voter turnout in 2013 was 77.9%, while men’s was 77%.

In the upcoming elections, will more Filipino women participate?

Gender equality

The Philippines has plenty of laws promoting gender equality. The question, however, is whether such laws have teeth.

Since 2009, the Philippines has been enacting the Magna Carta of Women or Republic Act 9710, which – among many goals – aims to increase the number of women in third-level government positions to “achieve a 50-50 gender balance” by 2014.

As of January 2014, about 42% of the third-level positions have been occupied by women, the PCW reported.

“Women dominate the bureaucracy especially the technical or second-level,” the PCW observed.

“Women in the bureaucracy are likely to be technical personnel and men are likely to be clerks or managers or executives.”

The Philippines has also enacted RA 7192 or the Women in Development and Nation Building Act, which requires all government departments to ensure that “women benefit equally and participate directly in the development programs and projects.”

The Philippines, however, is not alone. Gender inequality is a problem faced by many governments.

In fact, in 2015, countries around the world once again attempted to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues, including gender inequality and women empowerment.

This new set of targets is called the “Sustainable Development Goals (SDG),” the successor of the Millennium Development Goals.

The SDGs also aim to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.” 

The Philippines hopes to achieve such goal by 2030. –


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