Press Release
March 1, 2013

(Keynote speech at the 5th Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit held on
1 March 2013 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City)

I am happy to join you in this initial celebration of March as International Women's Month. According to the Philippine Commission on Women, the theme for the 2013 Women's Month celebration is - "Kababaihan: Gabay sa Pagtutulak ng Tuwid na Daan."

My speech will deal with three topics: the gender gap between men and women; the plight of female entrepreneurs; and the proliferation of political dynasties.


I presume that you have invited me, as a lawyer, to determine whether the Philippines has complied with the provisions for gender equality, under both international law and Philippine constitutional law.

On the one hand, international law on women's rights is found in a growing number of treaties among states. The most basic of these treaties, to which the Philippines is a party, is known as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, aka CEDAW. It provides that all states-parties shall eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country. International law gives to women, on equal terms with men, certain specific rights, including the right to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government (CEDAW, Article 7).

On the other hand, Philippine constitutional law provides the state policy that: "The state recognizes the role of women in nation building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men." (Article 2, Section 14). In other words, both under international law and under Philippine constitutional law, women should be treated with equal protection under the law, exactly in the same way as men. In our Constitution, this provision is called the Equal Protection Clause.

The United Nations has declared certain Millennium Development Goals. One of the goals is to promote gender equality and to empower women. But according to the National Statistical Coordination Board, in the last 2010 elections, only 21.4 percent of those elected were women. Thus, if the goal is that 50 percent of public officials should be women, we shall be unable to achieve this goal by the deadline, which is 2015.

In numerical terms alone, there is still a wide gender gap between the sexes. Numerically, half of our high government officials should be women, and half should be men. And yet the division between the sexes is highly disproportionate in favor of men. There have been fifteen Philippine presidents, of which only two have been women. Therefore, in order to correct the numerical mistake of the past, the logic of gender equality dictates that we should elect six more women as Philippine presidents, until we obtain the same number of female presidents as male presidents. Under this logic, we should elect a woman president in 2016.

In the Philippine Senate, in the outgoing 15th Congress, of 24 senators, only three of us are women. Therefore, in the coming May elections, we should vote for at least six qualified female candidates, so that eventually we should have 12 male and 12 female senators at the same time. The Civil Service Commission has issued a memorandum circular setting a target of 50-50 representation of women and men in executive positions. And yet in 2011, the Civil Service Commission reached the following conclusion: "In the recent years, the trend was that women occupy only less than one-third of third level positions in the government; more than one-third in government-owned and controlled corporations; less than 20 percent in local government units; and more than one-third in the judiciary. Overall, the proportionate share is 1:2 in favor of men holding top posts in the government." Why the Gap Remains

The conclusion is inevitable that the political participation of women in the Philippines is limited. This limitation is caused by the following factors:

1. The government and the political parties themselves have failed to provide information to women about candidates, party political platforms, and voting procedures. Often in the rural areas, women fail to exercise the right to vote because of their illiteracy, their lack of knowledge and understanding of political systems, or of the impact that political initiatives and policies will have upon their lives. Because of their lack of knowledge, women sometimes fail to register to vote.

2. Women, unlike men, have two sets of responsibilities: one in the home, and one at the workplace. Thus, women do not have enough time to follow electoral campaigns.

3. A lack of support for female candidates by the electorate.

In addition to these factors that discriminate against women, the political parties themselves have failed to provide an equality of balance between men and women in the organization of the party. In many of these parties, women are not granted equal participation in party activities. In practice, women should have an equal opportunity to serve as party officials and to be nominated as candidates for election. This can be done by providing information, as well as financial and other resources.

To close the gender gap, I humbly propose that our government should impose quotas or temporary special measures to increase women's political participation by the following methods:

1. Recruiting, financially assisting, and training women candidates.

2. Amending electoral procedures.

3. Developing campaigns directed at equal participation.

4. Setting numerical goals and quotas, and targeting women for appointment to public positions.

This kind of quota system for women has already been implemented successfully in countries such as South Africa, India, Finland, Argentina, and France. In the same manner, we should impose laws to accelerate women's equal participation in political life. We should ensure that the representation of women reflects the full diversity of the population, particularly indigenous women and Muslim women.


Unemployed Filipino Women and Poverty

According to the SWS Survey, the incidence of joblessness for women is much higher than that for men. As of August 2012 where there were 29.4 percent jobless Filipinos, 42.5 percent were women and only 19.3 percent were men. On top of this, according to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) Philippines, there were 13.9 million Filipinos who are single parents and with only a few exceptions, the mother is the one taking the responsibility of raising the child.

There is overwhelming evidence that women, particularly single mothers, suffer the most in terms of unemployment and poverty. While providing women with more jobs will certainly be a big help, there are other solutions to alleviate the plight of women to afford them a brighter future, and that is through the entrepreneurship option.

Entrepreneurship Options for Filipino Women

To lift Filipino women out of poverty we must first analyze their typical profile. Most of them would be out of a job, without a completed college education, no capital to start a business, and most would have the responsibility of taking care of young children. With such daunting odds, is the dream of a better life for our underprivileged Filipino women an impossible dream? Perhaps, in spite of such odds, there is still hope that something can be done with the right policies in place, and the availability of some financial aid.

As budding entrepreneurs, our poor Filipino women would face a number of limitations, namely: lack of training and skills, little or no capital available, and the need to stay at home to take care of their young children or be able to avail of the services of a day care center that they can trust and afford.

What then would be typical businesses that they can go into with such limitations? First is that we should consider what would be the primary capital that our Filipino women have, and that is really their time and talent. With that, they can do subcontract work where the raw materials and other equipment are provided to them and all they need to do is put it all together to come up with a finished or semi-finished product. This seems like an excellent proposition where they can work from their homes and not need to have any capital expenditure to earn a living.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, because under current labor regulations, this is classified as labor-only contracting, which is no longer allowed. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) considers this as an employer-employee relationship, with the worker considered as an employee of the company giving the business. The result is that companies refrain from going into these kinds of arrangements, depriving those in need with the opportunity to make an honest living. Not only that, the local government units also require our aspiring Filipino woman entrepreneur to secure a mayor's permit and comply with all the necessary documents needed and pay all sorts of fees and charges. Most certainly, for underprivileged women this is a most daunting task. To comply with all the bureaucratic red tape and to come up with even more money to pay the fees and charges for the permits is definitely the straw that breaks the camel's back.

If we truly want to help out our poor Filipino women who may want to have a small business or do some labor-only contract work from their homes, they should be exempt from securing any permits from the local or national government. They should also be exempt from the prohibition of labor-only contracting. If the government is willing to appropriate P44.25 billion for the Pantawid Pamilya Program, then it should be willing to forego whatever fees and taxes it could collect from these aspiring poor entrepreneurs, who want to have a better life and do not want to be a burden to anyone.

I have to acknowledge that although we are on the path, we are far from closing the gender gap. The Geneva-based World Economic Forum conducted a 2011 Global Gender Gap ranking. There were four categories that determined the gender gap. These are:

1. Educational attainment.

2. Health and survival

3. Economic participation and opportunity

4. Political empowerment.

In the first category of educational attainment, the Philippines was among the countries that were listed in the first rank, meaning that the number of females who attended elementary to college education is about the same as that of males. In the second category of health and survival, the Philippines was also placed in the first rank. This means that in the Philippines, women and men have more or less the same life expectancy, which is affected by various factors such as disease, malnutrition, and violence.

But in the third category of economic participation and opportunity, the Philippines ranked only No. 15 because of evident gaps between men and women in terms of work participation, remuneration, and advancement opportunities. Go Negosyo knows that there remains significant hurdles in getting access to finance, markets, and training and in leading companies where there is still an anomalous "glass ceiling." The term "glass ceiling" refers to the fact that women are not allowed to hold the highest positions in certain business corporations. And in the fourth category of political empowerment, the Philippines was ranked No.16, because of the disproportionate women-to-men ratio in government positions.


Women in Politics

In politics, women suffer a burden not suffered by men. This is because only women get pregnant. Until our civilization produces the technology to transfer the burden of pregnancy to men, there is nothing we can do about it. Women political leaders simply have to embrace and bridge the dichotomy between running the government and running a household. But women should educate men to share in household duties. There are some men who are noneducable, in which case, I strongly suggest that you should simply get rid of your husband and get a more cooperative spouse.

Our government has had women presidents and now we have a woman chief justice. But Congress has never had a female Senate President, or a female Speaker. That is because so far, the greater majority in both chambers of Congress has always been men. Possibly, this is one reason why there is so much corruption in Congress.

Even in the executive branch, there is an attitude problem. Certain cabinet positions seem to be reserved for men, such as the "muscular" departments of agriculture, energy, trade and industry. By contrast, certain cabinet positions seem to be reserved for women, such as the DSWD. We hope that in the next cabinet revamp, President PNoy will take more heed of the example set by his mother, President Cory, and appoint more women cabinet members.

Dynasties are Unconstitutional

The Philippine Constitution prohibits political dynasties. The Constitution provides: "The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law." (Article 2, Section 26.) Our Constitution was ratified in 1987. It is now 26 years since we ratified the Constitution. But during this entire time of more than a decade, Congress has failed to comply with its constitutional duty to pass a law defining and prohibiting political dynasties.

In the Senate, I am the only senator to have filed an anti-dynasty bill. I filed the bill in 2005. It was only last year, 2012, or eight years later, that the bill attracted media attention.

World Capital of Political Dynasties

Today, the Philippines is now conceivably the world capital of political dynasties. Why do politicians want to build or perpetuate dynasties? Why do young people aspire to be politicians, instead of lawyers or doctors or other respected professionals? People are driven to politics, mainly because of the urge to power; and politicians are driven to dynasties, mainly because of the urge to profit or in some cases, to plunder. For most professions, to succeed it is necessary to obtain a university diploma, pass a government examination, and acquire years of backbreaking practice. But in politics, virtually no qualifications are required, except possibly the epidermis of a pachyderm, meaning the sensibilities of a carabao.

No wonder dynasts are called "stationary bandits." They are the equivalent of Mafia crime families. Members of dynasties are gluttons for power and privilege. They constitute political monopolies and combinations in restraint of opportunities for others.

178 Political Dynasties

The result of 26 years of deliberate inaction by legislators is that based on the 2010 elections, today there are 178 dominant political dynasties. At the House of Representatives, 74 percent or 170 representatives belong to political families. In the Senate, 80 percent or 18 of the current 23 senators are members of political families. In the party-list system, 91 percent or 52 seats are held by millionaires and multimillionaires.

The Philippines has 80 provinces. Of these, 94 percent, meaning 73 out of 80, have political dynasties. In every province, there are at least two political families.

The Constitution regards political dynasties as evil, because in effect they constitute a monopoly of political power inside a democracy, the Constitution of which explicitly provides that every qualified Filipino should have an equal opportunity for public service.

And yet, political dynasties who have ruled for more than 30 years include 6 families. Political dynasties who have ruled for more than 20 years include at least 61 families. Political dynasties who have ruled 12 to 18 years include 53 political families.

Political dynasty is anathema in a democracy, because in one geographical area, one family controls power, corruption, the military, the police, and illegal activities such as illegal gambling, drug smuggling, gun smuggling, and smuggling of various other objects banned by law. In this manner, political dynasties have become invulnerable and constitute an open defiance of our Constitution, thus blatantly undermining the rule of law.

Anti-Dynasty Bill

Admittedly, it is very difficult and complicated to provide a definition of political dynasty. But we can define political dynasty by specifying the situation. This is what I did in my Senate Bill No. 2649. The bill imposes a prohibition on relatives within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity. On the local level, this bill prohibits such relatives from running for public office at the same time, within the same province. On the national level, such relatives cannot occupy the same office, immediately after the term of office of the incumbent elective official.

There is no law - as yet - that prohibits political dynasties. Therefore, according to the perverted reasoning of those who profit by this system, political dynasties are not yet illegal. However, they are unconstitutional. Is there such a creature that is unconstitutional but also legal? That creature is an oxymoron! Does this mean that our august legislators have the power to nullify a constitutional prohibition, simply by refusing to enact a law implementing the constitutional mandate? That is a no-brainer. Do we want to reward lawmakers who refuse to make laws, or should we punish them? The only conclusion is that if political dynasties qualify as legal by default, still political dynasties remain immoral. You can make exceptions, but if you want to make an exception, it should be based on extraordinary merit. Do not vote for members of political dynasties!

There is so much that is wrong with this country, starting with the attitude of some that they are sacrosanct and should be exempted from public scrutiny. There are some who use public funds for private purposes, and then demonize those who denounce the practice. All of these crooks took an oath when they began office that they would support and defend the Constitution. The Constitution prohibits political dynasties. And yet they continue to defy the Constitution.

Therefore, I call on the female entrepreneurs of Go Negosyo: Prove that there is a women's vote, and that there is an anti-dynasty vote! Uphold the basic principles of our democracy - the principle of the rule of law, and the principle of equality between men and women. We are taking a journey through a very dark forest.

But we are guided by the words of the poet:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the faithful lightning of His terrible swift sword;

His truth is marching on.

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