With ‘Inang Mahal’
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2019 - 12:00am

It’s Wednesday, the 24th day of April, and we’re having a late dinner with Gina de Venecia, the No. 1 nominee of #69 Inang Mahal” party-list in Butuan City’s new 5-star Oazis hotel. Also at the table are Gina’s husband, former House Speaker Joe de Venecia, Surigao del Norte Congressman Ace Barbers, hotel owners Albert and Rosemarie Ong and their daughter Dorothy, Saeed Daof of the Philippine Red Cross, businesswomen Jocelyn F. Yee and Rossana A. Cezar of Butuan City, restaurateur Rosyll Ebarle Mahinay of Buenavista, and this columnist who rushed from Gingoog to Butuan to meet Gina.

Manay Gina, as she is popularly called, and her husband JDV and staff of four have just driven in from Surigao City, three hours away by car, after addressing 5,000 senior citizens in the morning, and another 5,000 professionals and NGO members in the afternoon. That means possibly 10,000 voters for #69 Inang Mahal, a Comelec accredited party-list.

Gina and her friends organized the Inang Mahal as a non-stock, non-profit organization on July 28, 2017. Originally, the group was called “Ina” whose members were mothers who had lost their children, consoled one another and put up projects for less privileged women. A decision was made to organize a coalition of mothers from all sectors of the country. 

Mothers, Gina tells me, are generally described as nurturers, who devote practically their lifetime caring for their husbands and raising their children. 

After years of selfless toil and sacrifices for the family’s well-being, who cares for the welfare of the mother?

Inang Mahal is then a movement to serve as “the voice of all the mothers in the Philippines.”

Inang Mahal works for the welfare and for the protection of mothers who are victims of physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence; who have been separated from their husbands and are trying to fill the roles of both mother and father; the overseas working mothers; unemployed and employed mothers; the widows; the elderly mothers, who despite their advanced age are forced to work to support themselves or their families, who have been abandoned by their families, orphaned mothers whose children have died; the young mothers, those who are caught in armed conflicts, and single mothers.

Below are Inang Mahal’s goals:

1) Work for legislation that will create a fund to give scholarships and capital for livelihood projects; 

2) Establish women shelters all over the Philippines, to be funded by local government units, for abused mothers;

3) Establish a communication and guidance center at the DSWD office in all municipalities and cities, where mothers working abroad can communicate with their families and discuss their problems in the presence of a guidance counselor through television and by telephone.

4) Provide tax reprieve to companies who will accept mothers, 45 to 65 years old, and in the process, encourage companies to hire mothers who are in their senior years.

In her personal experience, as head of Congressional Spouses, as a congresswoman, and as the wife of a five-time Speaker, she saw that “compassion, hard work and sincerity are all good but they’re not enough. In order to perpetuate excellent services that really work, we need to institutionalize our programs. And we need the power of legislation to do that.”

She realized that the laws passed by Congress “help millions of people instead of mere thousands. So, in order to make meaningful reforms in the lives of millions of women and girls, mothers need an active voice in Congress to push for our causes.”

Gina’s track record shows her sincerity in helping others. In the short two terms or six years that she served as congresswoman, she built three “Havens”: one, a national rehabilitation center in Alabang, Muntinlupa with 15 regional centers nationwide for women who are victims of all kinds of abuses, rape, battering, forced prostitution, incest and illegal trafficking; another for drug-dependent children in Metro Manila, with five branches nationwide; a third, for senior citizens who have been abandoned by their families. She also organized the INA Healing Center, where countless mothers who have lost their children and are grieving go for free counselling.

Since January Gina has flown to many cities from north to south, from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao. Hectic is an understatement, as one day she is in Bacolod, the next day in Cagayan de Oro, and the next, in Batangas City. She also attends rallies for her son, Christopher, a brilliant dramatist who is running for reelection as congressman representing the 4th district of Pangasinan.

Her husband, Joe, has been Gina’s mentor in the ways of politics, and he is in all-out support of her endeavors. A quintessential statesman, he is co-chair of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace. He has twice accompanied Gina in her party list trips, the first during her visit to Quibuloy country in Davao City, and the second, on this trip to Surigao and Butuan.

Gina’s schedule is far different from when she ran (and won) for a seat in the 15th and 16th Congresses, representing the 4th district of Pangasinan. Running for Congress meant campaigning only within the district. As party-list candidate, she goes around the country to reach out to mothers.

Manay Gina tells her admiring audiences that the definition of the term “mother” cuts across gender. “These days, when we talk of mothers, we also include the single dads who raise their children, the gays and transgenders who act as mothers to their adopted children, nephews and nieces, and the husbands whose wives work overseas.”

So, Inang Mahal is for mothers and lolos, fathers, uncles, brothers and godfathers.

 Let us vote for #69 Inang Mahal.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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