Key women in Philippine government

Michael Bueza

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How many women are there in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Philippine government?

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Women in the Philippines were first granted the right to suffrage on April 30, 1937. Immediately, women participated in the nation’s affairs and won elective posts one after the other in that year’s local polls.

Forty-nine years after, in 1986, Corazon Aquino was swept to power, becoming the country’s first female leader. She would be followed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 15 years later, in 2001.

The Philippines ranks 5th worldwide in the 2013 Global Gender Gap Index report of the World Economic Forum. (READ: Male-female inequalities in PH decrease – world report)

The country scored high in political empowerment, and it shows in the women currently playing significant roles in the national and local governments, and even in world affairs.

WOMEN SENATORS. Clockwise from top left: Sens. Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and Loren Legarda.

Since 1986, of the 75 senators elected, 13 are women. In the current 16th Congress, there are 6 female senators, the most since the 1st Congress in 1946:

  • Ma. Lourdes Nancy Binay
  • Pilar Juliana Cayetano
  • Miriam Defensor-Santiago
  • Lorna Regina Legarda
  • Grace Poe-Llamanzares
  • Cynthia Villar

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, 79 are women (or 27% of the 289-member Lower House). Fifteen of them represent party-list organizations. More women have won seats in the Lower House in 16th Congress compared to the 15th Congress (67 out of 292, or 23%) and the 14th Congress (57 out of 277, or 21%).

In local governments, women are also leaders. During the 2013 midterm elections, 17 out of 80 provinces elected female governors. Eleven female vice governors were also elected. Two provinces have women governor-vice governor tandems:

  • Misamis Occidental – Governor Herminia Ramiro and Vice Governor Aurora Virginia Almonte
  • South Cotabato – Governor Daisy Avance Fuentes and Vice Governor Cecile Diel

A total of 33 city mayors and 21 city vice mayors are also women. In 4 cities, both the mayor and vice mayor are women:

City Province Mayor Vice Mayor
San Jose Nueva Ecija Marivic Violago-Belena Glenda Felimon
Masbate Masbate Rowena Rejuso-Tuason Ruby Sanchez
Sorsogon Sorsogon Sally Lee Ma. Charo Dichoso
Vigan Ilocos Sur Eva Marie Medina Lourdes Baquiran


WOMEN JUSTICES. From left to right: Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and Sandiganbayan presiding justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.

The head of the judicial branch of government is also a woman, the first in history: Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. There are 2 more women in the 15-member Supreme Court: associate justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Estela Perlas-Bernabe. Leonardo-De Castro was appointed by former Pres. Arroyo, while Perlas-Bernabe was appointed by Aquino.

The current Ombudsman, in charge of prosecuting crimes committed by government officials, is Conchita Carpio-Morales.

The presiding judge of Sandiganbayan is a woman, too: Amparo Cabotaje-Tang. With her in the 15-member anti-graft court are associate justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Maria Cristina Cornejo.

WOMEN IN CABINET. Clockwise from top left: DOLE Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz, DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima, CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan, and DSWD Sec. Corazon Soliman.

President Benigno Aquino III has also appointed 4 women as members of his Cabinet:

  • Rosalinda Baldoz, secretary, Department of Labor and Employment
  • Leila de Lima, secretary, Department of Justice
  • Corazon Juliano-Soliman, secretary, Department of Social Welfare and Development
  • Patricia Licuanan, chairperson, Commission on Higher Education

In key national government positions are these women:

Appointee Position Office
Teresita Deles Secretary Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Kim Henares Commissioner Bureau of Internal Revenue
Grace Padaca Commissioner Commission on Elections
Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan Chairperson Commission on Audit
Loretta Ann Rosales Chairperson Commission on Human Rights
Mary Ann Lucille Sering Secretary Climate Change Commission

Even in many Philippine embassies around the world, women take charge. As of March 2014, a total of 20 ambassadors are women.


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Editor’s Note: Supreme Court Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe was previously mentioned as appointed by Pres. Gloria Arroyo. She was, in fact, appointed by Pres. Benigno Aquino III. The list of women city mayor-vice mayor tandems have also been corrected. We apologize for the error.

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.