More women participation in governance?

Gwen De La Cruz, Lis Fortun

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Would increasing women participation in politics improve Philippine governance?

FOR WOMEN PARTICIPATION. Lawmakers and women's rights advocate discussed the merits of the bill seeking to increase women participation in governance. Photo by Gwen dela Cruz/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Would increasing women participation in politics improve Philippine governance?

Some lawmakers and women’s rights advocates believe it would.

In line with Women’s Month, lawmakers and women’s rights advocate organized a Legislator’s forum last March 27 at the Sulo Riviera Hotel, addressing a bill that aims to promote women participation in governance.

The bill is known as House Bill 3877, or the “Women Participation and Representation in Political Parties Act of 2013.” It seeks to promote women participation and equal representation in the government by granting incentives to political parties that give priority to women candidates.

Women’s voice

According to Sylvia Claudio, Director of the UP Center for Women’s Studies, women would make better political leaders because they engage more fully in consensus building and tend to introduce more legislation.

Citing US Pew Research Data, Claudio said that increasing the number of women in governance is one of the most effective strategies to remove the stereotypes of women being delegated to the sidelines in government.

However, Claudio cautioned that a female politician is not always going to be a game changer in a dominantly male political system. Women are “socialized differently,” according to Claudio, and are therefore, “more likely to bring different leadership values.”

“It [does] not matter if you are intrinsically male, but we have to recognize that there are many ways by which we are socialized, and unfortunately, the political system […] allows certain behaviors that are more likely to be sieged by men, to flourish, and therefore, they become trapos,” Claudio said. 

Dr. Socorro Reyes, Regional Governance Adviser of the Center for Legislative Development added that there are international conventions and treaties that give importance to women participation in the field of politics, such as the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 2012 General Assembly Resolution. 

Not enough

AKBAYAN representatives Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello, who support the bill, say its not only the quantity of women in politics but also the quality of women participation that should be encouraged. 

In the Supreme Court, 3 out of 15 sitting justices are women. In the 16th Congress, 78 out of 288 representatives are women while 6 out of 24 senators are women. According to Gutierrez, this shows that women participation in the political sector is still very minimal. 

Mixed reactions 

Some of the local government units gave their support for the passing of HB 3877. The Lady Municipal Mayors Association of the Philippines, for instance, believe that there are certain characteristics needed for governance that women have and that are distinct from men.

“Given the opportunity, women can employ these inherent qualities to work with men as partners in nation building,” said San Luis Mayor Anabelle Tangson.

On the other hand, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) gave recommendations to further improve the bill. Instead of referring to 30% as the ratio for ‘equitable representation’ of women, PCW suggested that it be called a “gender quota” for it to become gender-neutral so as to avoid ‘biases and discrimination.’

PCW proposed that further study should be done regarding the incentives and how it is given to political parties. They called for a limit in the amount of incentives and the consideration of other non-cash incentives such as free airtime in government-owned broadcast stations for women candidate advertisements.

Also, the bill should ensure that women are given equal chances of representation in all positions. Finally, for PCW, COMELEC should be tasked to implement the bill once it is passed while PCW will assist them in policy making.

Claudio also suggested that the bill be rephrased in order to include transgendered women, or “trans-women”, adding that they are “natural persons with good stature.”

Meanwhile, Nanay Clarita Eneria, president of the Kapit-Kamay association Inc., expressed her satisfaction with the proposed bill. Having originally lived along the train tracks of Malabon, Eneria mentioned how difficult it was to run for barangay councilor in Pandi, Bulacan, especially since she came from a different province. She cited the lack of financial support as one of the factors that made campaigning in local elections difficult.

“I have no political machinery. We were unwelcome before because I used to live alongside train tracks. I just dared to run,” Eneria said in Filiipino.

Points for improvement

While there were those who supported the passing of the bill, there were also some who were doubtful of it.

Beatrice Sanga, Secretary of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, said that she does not feel any gender disparity in the House of Representatives.

“From the top, well, of course, except for the Speakers, Sec Gen (Secretary General), Deputy Sec Gens (Secretary Generals), Directors, even Committee Sectors like Debbie (Garcia) and I, most of us are women,” Sanga said. “The committee secretaries – we’re the souls of the lawmaking process. We call the shots.”

Proponents and those critical agree that more more discussions with other political parties and other concerned agencies are needed to improve the bill. However, with the right amount of support, House Bill 3877 might just be the law that will give women the equality they deserve. –

Lis Fortun and Gwen de la Cruz are students and Rappler interns.

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