Press Release
March 6, 2023

DND Chessboard grounds, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City
March 6, 2023

Sa aking gracious host at isa pang seatmate ngayong umaga, Senior Usec. Charlie, kay Sir Antonio Bautista, ASHR vice chairperson, Acting Chief Chaplain Daniel Tansip, kay Usec. de Leon, at sa inyo pong lahat, mga ginagalang kong kasamang nagtratrabaho sa pamahalaan, magandang umaga sa ating lahat! And of course, a very happy women's month to everyone here at the Department of National Defense.

Kung babae po ang katabi ninyo ngayong umaga, batiin niyo po siya ng happy women's month! Pati mga kapamilya, kaibigan, kasama sa bahay, kahit wala dito, maya-maya kapag pwede na, batiin niyo ng happy women's month. Sa mga kapwa ko solo moms, at solo dads narin, mga kapwa ko solo parents, pwede ko po ba kayo marinig ng happy women's month?

This is a special morning for me because your agency, the DND, is home to many people close to my heart: My brother David, our bunso in the family, was a Philippine Navy Marine, and my late husband, Frank Baraquel, was a PMA graduate of the Sinagtala class of 1986. David, Frank, and Frank's mistah, my mistah, have always been one of my strongest allies in life. Kaya, maraming, maraming salamat sa pag-imbita sa akin ngayong umaga.

Every year, when we celebrate Women's Month, we are encouraged to reflect on what we have gone through, what we have fought, and what we have won, for our women.

As you may already know, it was only in 1993 that women were granted the right to become cadets of the Philippine Military Academy, through Republic Act No. 7192 or the Women in Development and Nation-Building Act. The law recognized that women should be full partners of men in nation-building; that real progress is only possible when women are not excluded from spaces of decision-making, governance, and development.

Since the passage of RA 7192, it's emboldening to witness women take leadership positions in the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In 2020, as a member of the Commission on Appointments, we confirmed the promotion of Capt. Luzviminda Camacho to become our first female commodore in the Philippine Navy, and in fact, up to this day, every time we confirm a woman from the AFP in the CA, my heart swells with pride and joy. Hindi maliit na bagay ang mga tagumpay na ito kaya buong-puso ang pagpupugay ko.

Bilang kasalukuyang Chairperson ng Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, ang mga batas tulad ng RA 7192 ang nagbibigay sa akin ng inspirasyon at gabay para mas palakasin pa ang mga polisiyang nagsusulong ng karapatan at kapakanan ng ating kababaihan. Whenever I get the chance to talk about the laws we pass, particularly those pushed by our Senate Committee on Women, I try to highlight that these were always in close consultation with women, with girls, whose perspectives and points of view give meaning to our legislation.

The Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act, for example, was crafted because we constantly had conversations and discussions with various solo parents, solo parent groups and federations, all of whom belong to the 14 to 15 million solo parents in the entire Philippines, of whom 95% are women. I share this because we cannot empower our women if we do not listen to us, if we do not hear the very real, lived experiences of different kinds of women across the country, including our women in uniform.

Kayo po sa DND, bilang tagapagdepensa laban sa mga panlabas at panloob na banta sa Pilipinas, ikalalakas lang ng inyong ahensya ang pakikinig sa ating kababaihan. A diverse team will only make the DND more operationally agile, more efficient, more effective. When we embrace the strengths of the whole population, when women are invited to meaningfully participate and serve, we lift the entire nation.

While, yes, we've had many triumphs for our women, I hope that this Women's Month encourages us to do more: more programs, more policies, more measures that can truly level the playing field in all the spaces that men also occupy. Mahaba-haba pa ang laban. We still need to increase female participation in all levels of governance, in politics, in positions of power.

In the Senate alone, despite its over 100-year history, we've only had over 20 female senators, and no woman has ever served as Senate President. But even with this small number of female senators, it was actually one of these women, Senator Santanina Rasul, who took the opportunity to craft RA 7192, the law that opened doors for women at the PMA. She co-authored it with former Senator Raul Roco, only demonstrating how powerful it can be when we have women and men, helping each other, hand in hand, in building our nation.

Kailangan po natin ang isa't. Tunay nating madedepensahan ang anumang pagbabanta sa ating inang bayan kung walang babae, walang mamamayan, ang naiiwan - ito ang totoong pagkakaisa.

Muli, maraming, marami pong salamat sa lahat ng bumubuo ng Department of National Defense sa inyong pag-imbita. Sa inyong mga nanay, tita, ate, manang, happy women's month and my snappy salute! Mabuhay po kayo.

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