BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The campaigns to push Vice-President Leni Robredo and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to run for president in next year’s elections show that there are many Filipino women who are believed capable of running for public office, Comelec Commission Rowena Guanzon said yesterday.
A staunch advocate of women’s rights, Guanzon, who spoke at the Provincial Women’s Day celebration spearheaded and organized by the Provincial Council for Women at the Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City yesterday, said that women must be there in all places of decision-making.
“Politics is the most powerful place for decision-making, not only on the resources and machinery, but also the capacity to change the law and advocate for reforms,” Guanzon, who used to be mayor of Cadiz City, and commissioner of the Commission on Audit, said.
Election and politics are also the most powerful avenues for women, who want to create change and make reforms, she stressed, citing the women presidents of Germany, New Zealand, and Taiwan, and the vice president of the United States.
Guanzon encouraged Congress to pass a proposal now pending that, like in other countries, seeks to give state funds to political parties that have a certain percentage of women for elective positions, or an all-women political party, to break the cycle of inequality.
Gatekeepers of political parties must also be pressured, either by their political parties or by law, that at least 30 percent of their candidates are women, especially in local elections, she added.
As of 2019, Comelec records show that Negros Occidental ranked fourth among provinces with highest voting population, and 60 percent are women voters, who elected men into office.
Women are not running for public office because it is expensive, they have to put their children first, political parties are not recruiting women because the gatekeepers are men, Guanzon said.
Vote buying, which is deeply embedded in Philippine politics, Guanzon said, has discouraged women from running for public office.
“We don’t get the best leaders running for public office,” she said, adding that vote buying is the number one scourge in elections.
She said she pushed for a rule at Comelec that gives a certain percentage to political parties, when 30 percent of their candidates are women.
The points given to them, she said, are very important in the computation of the dominant minority, or dominant majority party.
She encouraged women to join politics, and advised them to organize and be active in government affairs, starting at the barangay level, to gain and accumulate friends.
More than a year before the 2022 synchronized elections, Guanzon urged Congress to pass a law that will allow early voting for the elderly, pregnant women, persons with disability, and indigenous people, stressing that election cannot be postponed, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The filing of the certificates of candidacy for next year’s election will be on the first week of October, she said.
Guanzon also said that Comelec is studying the registration of voters via a mobile phone app, as she noted low registration among new voters, because of the pandemic.
Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, who also spoke at the PCW activity attended by women groups and representatives from cities and municipalities of Negros Occidental, said that gender advancement and advocacy are among the thrusts of the present administration.
The provincial government made certain that proper enabling mechanisms shall be in place through the creation of appropriate structures, adequate budget, and priority programs, Lacson said.
“Gender equality has always been at the core of social justice, true democracy, and genuine progress,” he added. Also present at the event were Sangguniang Panlalawigan Board Members Araceli Somosa, Rita Gatuslao, and Sixto Pal Guanzon, and Provincial GAD Focal Point System action officer Marie June Castro.*