Robredo for women empowerment/ Who is Rowena Guanzon?

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

Economic empowerment through the creation of livelihood opportunities is the key to eliminating or at least curtailing abuse and violence against women.

This was the formula that Camarines Sur Congresswoman Leni Robredo said, was used with great success in addressing the many cases of domestic cruelty inflicted against women in Naga City. Robredo is the Liberal Party candidate for vice president in next year’s election. She was guest speaker in the recent Women’s Convention on Peace and Development in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur. The event drew an attendance of some 1,250 participants from all over the country.

The Bicolana lawmaker narrated her years of experience in helping women who were subjected to physical and verbal abuse at home. The women, she said, were compelled to endure their suffering because they were completely dependent on their husbands or partners; they had no means of livelihood to support themselves and their children. In many instances, the women simply could not bear the thought of leaving the children behind.

But Robredo was able to confront the problem in a most decisive manner, in conjunction with certain groups which she had been working with in pursuit of her advocacy on the promotion of the welfare of women, protection of children and helping the poor. She had been deeply committed to these concerns long before she entered government service.

Robredo had founded the Lakas Ng Kababaihan Ng Naga, was president of the Naga City Council for Women for three years and a member of the Federacion International de Abogadas. As a lawyer, she also worked with the Public Attorney’s Office in the city and served as coordinator of the Sentro Ng Alternatibong Lingap Pang-Legal (Saligan), a lawyer’s group that offered legal assistance to farmers.

In addressing the issue of economic empowerment for women, she was candid enough to admit that it helped that her husband, the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, was mayor of Naga City. But she also cited the big help of the Naga City Women’s Council, composed of various women’s groups, as an effective instrument in promoting the interests and welfare of the women’s sector.

The groups’ unified effort, she told her Pagadian City audience, proved crucial in convincing members of the Sangguniang Panglungsod to double the city government’s budget for implementing projects for women. The financial windfall enabled them to establish livelihood programs for the women and the group also asked the city government to procure from them the products that would be needed in its various activities and LGU-sponsored events.

Women were taught sewing and the city government rented togas from them come graduation time and uniforms needed for sports events during summer. Those who could cook became caterers who supplied food whenever there were seminars. Hence, the women also learned to become small entrepreneurs.

She said the women’s groups also started a new program called Partnership Against Poverty and Hunger. In this undertaking, women also became producers of vegetables and other crops. Robredo credited the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform for helping them in securing planting sites, providing fertilizers and other needs. The vegetables and other crops that they produce are then bought by the city government for its feeding program.

By providing housewives and other women with a measure of financial security and dependable means of livelihood, it would seem that Leni and the women’s groups of Naga City have found an effective way to empower abused women in the community. Hopefully, this would also prod wife beaters to abandon their cruel ways, as the wives may just develop enough willpower to leave them.

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The woman of the hour, so it seems, is Rowena Guanzon, the Comelec commissioner who is being taken to task for filing a comment before the Supreme Court, asking it to lift its temporary restraining order on the poll body’s decision to disqualify Grace Poe from the presidential race.

Comelec  Chair Andres Bautista also asked Comelec Law Department Director Norina Casingal to explain the filing of the comment.

Comelec has disqualified Poe from the presidential race.

Bautista said the filing was “irregular” and “disrespectful” as other members of the poll body were not given the opportunity to review the comment.

Guanzon filed the comment on Jan. 7, days ahead of the Jan. 12 deadline.

According to news reports, Guanzon, responding to Bautista’s statements, said as a commissioner, she is not a subordinate or employee of the poll chief and he has no administrative supervision over her.

Guanzon claimed that the Comelec en banc permitted her to represent the commission in oral arguments. She said Bautista cannot do the same because he had a dissenting opinion on the issue.

Comelec, Guanzon added, did not require that all commissioners have to review or approve the comment before it is filed because of urgency.

Guanzon and Chairman Bautista were scheduled to have a “face-off” yesterday.

However the meeting turns out, the fact is Commissioner Guanzon has shown herself on television to be feisty, and unafraid of men or beasts.

Who is she, who is this woman rocking the boat?

She is a litigation lawyer. She is no Tom, Dick or Harry. She graduated among the top ten of her class at the University of the Philippines where she obtained her law degree. She received the American Field Service Mabuhay Award as outstanding lawyer in the field of women’s human rights, and the UP Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Alumna in equality and women empowerment. She is a graduate of Silliman University high school class of 1974. She was Silliman’s Outstanding Sillimanian Awardee for 2015. She also has a degree in economics from UP and a master in public administration from Harvard University.

She has authored/co-authored a number of important books like The Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004, the lead author of Engendering the Philippine Judiciary, and The Davide Court: Its Contributions to Gender and Women’s Rights, and The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act: Notes and Cases. Her articles on public issues on violence against women and children and human trafficking are published in the Journal of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Law Journal.

Bing is one of five children sent to Silliman by Sillimanian parents. Her father, Sixto R. Guanzon, finished AB in 1950, summa cum laude.

Bing is an active member of SIMM (Sillimanians in Metro Manila), which awarded her the Galing Awards in August 2015.

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Email: [email protected]

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