Our women candidates for May 2016
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2015 - 9:00am

It is a pity that our women candidates in 2016 are not up to standard for those of us who want a greater gender equality in politics. I am writing on women vying for top positions.

I refer to Grace Poe, Leni Robredo and Miriam Santiago. Of the three women candidates, Miriam Santiago comes closest to what I regard as a woman in politics even if I do not agree  with some of her positions. Miriam Santiago would have been a good woman candidate. She is intelligent, she is experienced and would be prepared to take up issues that can shape a party program. Unfortunately she is also very sick and if she were to run with Bongbong Marcos as her vice president what comes to mind is that she will be merely making way for a Marcos to return as president of the Philippines. This is not to prejudge him, that he was a young man when his father was in power and there are painful memories for so many families.  To me the big issue against the return of the Marcoses in power is impunity. The family’s return to power is an admission that politicians can get away from graft and corruption, and serious crime.

I was not able to attend the Philippine STAR lunch meeting yesterday with Leni Robredo, the widow of Jess Robredo as the guest. She is described as a good woman and promises to concentrate on her work for the poor. But she, too, is hampered by being a good cover-up for the evils of Aquino III’s  government. It is plagued by the slogan “daang matuwid” with questions unanswered by  some of the most serious allegations like the PDAF and DAP. My mole in the STAR lunch said that seemed unsure of herself and justified her joining as the Liberal Party presidential ticket for the “little” she could do as a government official. Her main asset she said was her work with NGOs for the poor. My mole says she answered questions more intelligently than either Mar Roxas or Jejomar Binay.  It would have been futile for me to have questioned her about her stand on constitutional reform because she would not depart from the Aquino-Roxas position that we do not need constitutional reform. The coming elections, as far as I was concerned is how to restructure politics and government in our country so the poor and marginal sectors would get in mainstream politics. Leni Robredo does not have the preparation nor the will to take up the struggle for those reforms. To my mole she was the good wife of Jess Robredo and that is not enough for a woman to qualify for a top position in government.

The third woman candidate, Grace Poe, I am afraid, is the worse of the lot for the May presidential candidates. And it was she who once enjoyed such popularity and a good example of what Jojo Robles called “The Frontrunner’s Curse.” Indeed she was the chosen candidate by the Liberal Party not just as vice president but even as the president. The trouble is no due diligence was carried out on her. It now turns out that she may be a Filipino citizen but not natural born and that is mandatory for a candidate whether as senator, vice president or president. She did not qualify for any of these positions. The talk is that when the Supreme Court decides on her disqualification, she will have to return all the money and benefits she gained from the positions.

Moreover the Senate Electoral Tribunal made the controversy worse by voting as one in her favor and claimed this was a “political” decision. The Supreme Court justices of SET stuck to the issue as a constitutional and legal matter.

Meanwhile the anger against her dishonesty for misrepresenting herself as natural born has taken a heavy toll. Even without the Supreme Court decision, the popularity she once had has simply sunk. Her qualifications are nothing to brag about either being merely a new entrant with no experience in politics and government.

She is the worse of the women candidates, a person made to use her adoptive father’s name as her sole basis for asking Filipinos to vote for her as president.

Some have even compared her to the incumbent president’s qualification as the son of “heroes” despite lacking any traits or experience to run government. No, never again, they said. But the publicists in the Liberal Party think that with enough money and publicity, she could win just as President Noynoy Aquino won. The backlash of her candidacy was best described by front running candidate Mayor Rody Duterte of Davao.

Duterte was so incensed with the vote of senators in SET that he announce he will run for president for that reason alone.

“I’m using it because I love my country I’m using the disqualification because I do not want an American citizen or at least one who is not natural born (president),” Duterte said in announcing his presidential candidacy.

Duterte said if Filipinos decide they want an American president then they can vote for Poe.

“Kung kailangan ninyo si Grace Poe, Amerikano. Doon kayo. Kung sino lang ang gusto ninyo. Kailangan ninyo ng competent, lumalaban nang bagyo, ‘yan si Mar,  kailangan naman ninyo ng gumagawa ng parang Lee Kuan Yew, ayan si Binay, si Miriam she’s brilliant. If you want a brilliant president, ‘yung talagang brilliant na mataas ang IQ ‘yan,” Duterte said.

“Kung gusto ninyo ng 75 76 77, ako ‘yan. ‘Yan lang talaga ang grado ko sa buhay ko. Ordinary lang ako. ‘Di nga ako nakatikim maski fifth honorable mention...Kalimutan ninyo na ako. Balikan ninyo ako one week before the elections. ..para di kayo mabigatan, iconsider ninyo muna silang lahat,” he said in Cavite where he attended a party and used the occasion for a more definite declaration that he will run for president.

This is sad and the examples for local women politicians quite unfortunate. Women have to work harder, and participate as much as they can in government. Although there are notable women leaders like Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher it is a hard climb to the top and the May elections 2016 in the Philippines demonstrate the difficulties.

“According to a 2006 report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, 16 percent of all parliament members in the world are female. In 1995, the United Nations set a goal of 30 percent female representation. The current annual growth rate of women in national parliaments is about 0.5 percent worldwide. At this rate, gender parity in national legislatures will not be achieved until 2068.”


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