These women made their stand
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2016 - 10:00am

As the May 9 elections enters the homestretch, we must not allow ourselves to be sucked into the word war among rival candidates, while passions are running high and some, turning the political campaign into a circus.

The choice we, voters, have for the presidency will be among Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and ex-Interior Secretary Mar Roxas II, in alphabetical order.

We first had roundtable sessions with each of the presidential candidates before the official campaign started. This was a few months after they filed their respective certificates of candidacy. Binay, Roxas and Poe came. Due to conflicting schedules, we failed to set dates with the camps of Santiago and Duterte.

We also had roundtable sessions with three of the vice presidential candidates who “invited” themselves to The STAR, namely, Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Camarines Sur Rep.Leni Robredo. I was out of the country when we had the roundtable with Robredo, Liberal Party (LP) runningmate of Roxas. “Invited” because each of these VP candidates offered or initiated to sit down in The STAR roundtable.

Some senatorial candidates also “invited” themselves and came to The STAR one after the other, namely, ex-Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, comebacking Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, and Richard “Dick” Gordon.

We had a second round of the roundtable with the presidential bets during the campaign period. This is the traditional interview sessions with candidates that we started during the May 2010 presidential elections. This time The STAR editors and reporters grilled each presidential candidate.

We had Binay on April 11 and Roxas on April 15. We had Poe last Friday and Santiago on Saturday.  Today, we are having Duterte.

Less than a week before election day, major groups, influential leaders and statesmen started declaring and articulating why they have chosen to support this or that candidate for president or vice president.

Recently, former senator Santanina Rasul led the launching of the “Kababaihan para kay Grace Poe,” where the first Muslim senator declared Grace “represents the kind of leader the country needs now.” I used to cover the senator who represented not only Mindanao, but also Muslim women in our country.

Rasul reminisced her long career as a public servant as she talked about the reasons why she is encouraging Filipinos far and wide to vote for Grace and Chiz.

“My long experience as a public servant tells me that Sen. Grace will be good for the country. She is the embodiment of the modern Filipina: manifestly intelligent, honest, sincere and effective,” she said.

As far as she sees it, Rasul said Grace and Chiz’s special emphasis on Mindanao is a strong manifestation that they are taking the Mindanao challenges and concerns judiciously. She cited the promises made by the tandem to allocate one third of the national budget, or an estimated P1 trillion, for the development and growth of the Mindanao region.

Rasul’s contemporary at the Senate, former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani shares her ex-colleague’s support for the Grace-Chiz team. Shahani said the tandem’s kind of leadership would not allow the violation and trampling of women’s rights. Shahani was specifically taking issue over the controversial rape comment made by Duterte.

Shahani said Filipino voters must elect officials who are sure to protect and promote women’s rights and gender equality, noting that the Filipino women and minority groups are still suffering.

She was the main sponsor and author of the landmark rape bill, which defined rape as “a crime against women and not against chastity.” The Rape Law took 11 laborious long years to be passed and signed into law by her brother, the former President Fidel Ramos.

Ironically, ex-President Ramos – who hems and haws on who among the five presidential bets he will endorse – is no longer making secret his support for Duterte, or so it seems.

With several fellow retired police and military generals, Mr. Ramos – with a clenched fist, which is the symbol of Duterte’ presidential campaign – appeared in a campaign poster of the Davao mayor.

The support of Shahani to Sen. Poe is not surprising. She is after all the erstwhile supporter of Sen. Poe’s father, the  late actor Fernando Poe Jr., when the latter run but lost in the 2004 presidential elections.

Even between  brothers and sisters, they too, at times, do not agree when it comes to politics.

For her part, family expert Katrina Legarda said Grace has shown before and during the campaign “the strength of mind and character to protect our children and families.” A vote for Grace is a vote of a child who cannot elect their leaders come May 9 elections, she said.

In a similar move, Gabriela launched its own Girl Power (GP), affirming their support for Grace and Chiz because of their “compassion for children and poor workers” and for the team’s promise to end the contractualization of workers.

Among the personalities included in the roster of the “Kababaihan para kay Grace Poe” are Sr. Mary John Mananzan, of the St. Scholastica’s College; Kakay Tolentino, of the Indigenous Women Network; Socorro Reyes, regional governance adviser of the Center for Legislative Development; film director Bibeth Orteza; Patricia Camille Salvador, student leader at UP Manila; Nitz Gonzaga of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Women; Nere Guerrero of Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihan Nagkakaisa; Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, and Poe’s senatorial candidates Susan Ople and Lorna Kapunan.

Mananzan’s presence in the event was a heavy symbolic gesture. She rightly pointed out any leader, let alone Grace and Chiz, cannot solve the country’s problems by themselves.

We need all the active support of all Filipinos in dealing with the problems in our country. These women made a stand. You and me may not agree with them. But we must respect their stand, or any voters for that matter with a different stand from us.

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