[page-number of print ed.: 9]

1. Introduction

Philippine politics is essentially the domain of the "male" and the "wealthy". Corazon Aquino’s rise to power in 1986 points out only one clear, indisputable fact: never again shall it be said that a woman cannot be the country’s highest chief executive. Having a woman president unfortunately has not led Filipino women to a higher place in society, much less in politics. The phenomenon may have even cast more doubts on the propriety of having women take on major responsibilities in public life.

The country’s political system, however, has always been in favor of the men, long before Mrs. Aquino’s celebrated case. Male-elite dominance is a legacy of the past. During the Spanish occupation, women had virtually no place outside of the home. In recent years, women have performed more active roles in political events but their participation in governance and politics remains limited.

This paper seeks to identify and describe the limits and possibilities of women’s participation in Philippine politics, particularly at the local level of government. It will try to assert that challenging male and elite hegemony in the political system is a difficult yet possible task.

The first section of this paper describes women’s participation in the elite-male dominated political landscape: how many women have joined politics, in what institutions are they present, how effective has this participation been. The next section traces the journey of Filipino women toward recognition and participation, starting from the colonial times until the Martial Law years. Following that section is a description of the women’s movement in contemporary times including the various tracks they have taken to advance women’s participation in public discourse and activity. The track taken by PILIPINA, one of the women’s groups visibly advocating for more women in politics, is then highlighted as a case study. Prospects and challenges are presented in the final section of the paper.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Oktober 2001

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