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5. Pilipina: Attempts at Engaging More Women to Participate in Politics

In its first decade, 1981–1991, PILIPINA, a mass-based feminist organization with around a thousand members, worked to mainstream gender in the social development sphere. This meant gaining visibility for and recognition of women’s issues as central to the question of development. Such issues included child care, women’s health and reproductive rights, violence against women, the gender gap in play, training and education and legal discrimination. 33

Throughout this period, PILIPINA organized consciousness-raising groups on women’s issues and advocated for the integration of the gender perspective into development programs and projects. Much of the institutionalization of gender-responsive policies and programs in NGOs and networks can be attributed to the work of PILIPINA.

During its National Assembly in 1993, PILIPINA decided to shift its focus toward "women and public power". Years of consciousness-raising and organizing work brought PILIPINA members to the realization that "unless women aggregated their political strength, formulated and pushed their agenda, fielded candidates and shared in the task of reinventing politics, they would always beg from the table of patriarchs". 34

Concretely, the shift meant entering into electoral and parliamentary politics. PILIPINA’s newly defined mission was to work for women’s full participation in public governance, with stress on public office and movements for social change.

To operationalize its new thrust, PILIPINA launched three projects: 1) constituency building on gender issues; 2) enhancing women’s participation in electoral politics; and 3) establishing an Institute for Women in Politics. 35

Constituency building was done basically through the consolidation of PILIPINA chapters in the following areas: National Capital Region (NCR), Baguio, Kalinga, Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro City, Bacolod City, Davao City, Butuan, and Marawi. Seminars and conferences were held to draw in more women into the PILIPINA chapters. Each of these chapters then planned and implemented area-specific projects.

The second project involved activities directed at the electoral arena. In 1995, PILIIPINA launched an electoral project called "Vote for Women’s Issues and Empowerment" or VOTE-WISE to prepare women for the May 1995 local and national elections. VOTE-WISE was also meant to start the organization of a women’s vote.

PILIPINA’s electoral project consisted of four (4) regional consultations (Mindanao, Visayas, NCR/Central and Southern Luzon) and two (2) national consultations (before and after the May 1995 elections). Results of the regional consultations included the formulation of a comprehensive women’s agenda, particularly for those of the Cordilleras and Muslim Mindanao, and, setting of a women’s criteria for assessing and voting for political candidates. The regional activities also served as a venue for some PILIPINA such as Marilou Caharian of Davao City, Remedios Llego of Cagayan de Oro City, and Celia Flor of Bacolod to firm up their decision to run for city council and Congress in the May 1995 elections (among the three, only one, Celia Flor, was elected; the other two, unfortunately was not able to successful counter the fraudulent tactics of their traditional and male opponents).

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Outputs of the regional consultations were then presented to a national conference in April 1995. In this conference, regional outputs were consolidated into national VOTE-WISE criteria for selecting candidates, a women’s agenda encompassing several women’s issues and a plan of action for the 1995 electoral contest. The conference was also able to gather senatoriables for a dialogue on the VOTE-WISE agenda. Ten (10) senatorial candidates and representatives – Dr. Juan Flavier, Raul Roco (represented by Sonia Roco). Francisco Tatad (represented by Roy Picart), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (represented by Ludy Arroyo), Nikki Coseteng, Adeliza Raymundo, Al Tillahfrom – from three (3) different political parties – Lakas-Laban Party (the ruling party), Nationalist People’s Coalition, and the People’s Reform Party – attended the dialogue-forum. 36

The presentation of these candidates was divided into three batches, according to the candidates’ affiliation. Each candidate was given a few minutes to discuss his/per platform of agenda in relation to women’s issues. At the end of each presentation, participants were given time to ask questions and exchange opinions with the senatoriables. After the dialogue, PILIPINA then assessed the candidates based on the criteria they had earlier set.

As a post-election activity, PILIPINA again gathered its members for a national consultation. In this consultation, the three PILIPINA candidates who ran shared their electoral experiences, particularly on what they failed to do during their campaign. After sharing experiences, the conference then moved on to discuss and plan for future electoral engagements such as electoral reform, the barangay elections in 1997 and the party list election in 1998.

With two years of groundbreaking work, a number of women were ready for direct participation in electoral politics, that is, the barangay elections of 1997.

The barangay is the smallest and basic political unit of the country and it was deemed necessary to advocate for women’s issues and women candidates at that level. To prepare for such contest, PILIPINA developed and conducted seminars called "Political Orientation and Campaign Management Training for Barangay Women Leaders". After the elections which yielded positive results for half of PILIPINA’s candidates, the group assessed their participation and planned programs that would assist women candidates who won.

The third component of PILIPINA’s project was the establishment of a political institute aimed at enhancing the capacity of women to influence and participate in mainstream politics. This included the development of a Basic Orientation Seminar on women in politics named Political Orientation for Women Leaders (POWER), holding of roving conferences and publication of issue briefs. The political institute was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1995 under the name "PILIPINA – Women in Politics Institute or WPI.

With the building of WPI, PILIPINA was able to strengthen its alliances with groups working on women’s participation in politics. As a founding member of the Center for Asia-Pacific Women in Politics (CAPWIP), PILIPINA hosted and organized the first CAPWIP Congress in June 1994. Attended by over 200 women from 20 countries, the Congress resulted in the formulation of a "platform for action to increase women’s participation in politics". This platform, in turn, served as an impetus for PILIPINA to draw up its own framework on transformative politics. At the same time, PILIPINA also played a key role in the compilation and publication of the Congress proceedings which now serves as an important reference material for women advocates and practitioners in the arena of politics. 37

PILIPINA continued to take the lead role in CAPWIP even after the first Congress. In 1995, PILIPINA convened the Second CAPWIP Congress held in Huarou Beijing simultaneous to the 4th World Conference on Women and NGO Forum on Women. The second Congress also included regional Congresses for women in North America/Europe, Latin American/Car-

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ribean, Africa and Western Asia. Through these conferences, the Asia-Pacific notion of the women in politics theme was articulated and translated into concrete plans of action. CAPWIP then lobbied for the integration of these plans into the Official Conference Platform for Action.

PILIPINA also participated in setting up the Institute of Politics and Governance (IPG) along with groups coming from the democratic left and popular democratic blocs for the purpose of forming a new and progressive political party.

Party-building has become a major concern for PILIPINA. The need for such a party was explicitly raised by women candidates who ran in 1995 and 1997. In the words of PILIPINA member Marilou Caharian "it is difficult to win as an independent, or as part of a team with whom you have very little in common or your principles conflict with theirs. We must form a party if we are going to be serious about women in politics. It doesn’t have to be an all-women party but candidates who believe in the same cause. More candidates are likely to win this way." 38

Since 1995, the group has been active in the formation of AKSYON! (Citizens’ Action Party), the political party conjured up by progressives in various venues such as the IPG conferences and other caucuses. When AKSYON held its Pre-Congress in September 1996, PILIPINA members, along with their sisters from KALAYAAN, proposed a 30% quota for women within AKSYON structures. This meant that women membership and leadership from the local chapter to the national level would not be less than 30% of the total. Though this elicited much debate, the women nevertheless were able to convince the body to accept the proposal. 39 PILIPINA leader Karen Tanada was also elected into the Interim Executive Committee of AKSYON as Interim Vice-Chairperson. PILIPINA and KALAYAAN members also proposed women-related provisions for integration into the AKSYON Platform for Government and Constitution and By-Laws.

PILIPINA has held several conferences to discuss its involvement in AKSYON. Though the party is individual-based, PILIPINA saw such collective thinking and decision-making as a necessary internal process. Through such process, PILIPINA has come to a decision that a progressive political party such as AKSYON is strategically important especially for socialist feminists. In other parties, PILIPINA has the task of "socializing" at the same time "feminizing". In AKSYON, PILIPINA believes, the task would only be to "feminize" organizational structures, agenda, and practices. AKSYON is to serve as PILIPINA’s strategic vehicle for progressive engagement in the electoral arena particularly at the local level.

Aside from AKSYON, PILIPINA was also instrumental in setting up a women’s political movement for purposes of the 1998 party list system. The party-list system which will be exercised for the first time in 1998, provides proportional representation for parties other than the major traditional ones. Contending parties who will be able to generate 2% of the votes cast for the party list election will gain at most 3 seats in the Lower House of Representatives.

The all-women political movement has been named ABANSE, Kababaihan ng Pilipinas (Advance, Women of the Philippines). 40 PILIPINA sees this movement as the vehicle to register in the public’s consciousness that women are serious about elections. It is meant to advance a broad-based women’s agenda and women’s participation in politics.

ABANSE was launched on August 8, 1997 by PILIPINA members and individuals from groups such as WIN and UKP. As publicly declared during this launching, ABANSE’s goal is "to strengthen women in politics in the 1998 election and develop the women’s vote highlighting the women’s agenda, getting more women elected into strategic positions and testing out a women’s party in the party list.

Concretely, ABANSE is targetting at least five (5) women in Congress (3 in the House and 2 in the Senate), a substantial vote for the party list

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(i.e 1.5 million votes) and a clear and popularized women’s agenda which will be endorsed to political parties and the public during elections.

For PILIPINA, entering into electoral politics, however, does not mean abandoning previous efforts in lobbying and networking. PILIPINA continues to be active in at least three networks aside from the lobby group SIBOL: WAND, NPC, FDC.

The Women’s Action Network and Development (WAND) is PILIPINA’s strategic network for NGO and PO strengthening, especially with respect to gender mainstreaming work. Together with other members of WAND, PILIPINA successfully lobbied for the passage of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act or Republic Act 7877 in 1995.

As part of the National Peace Conference (NPC), PILIPINA is able to engage government’s social reform agenda (SRA). The PILIPINA National Coordinator does technical work for the implementation of the women’s program within the SRA framework while two of its members, Teresita Quintos-Deles and Jurgette Honculada sit in the joint government and NGO-PO Council chaired by the President of the Philippines. The Social Reform Council is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the Social Reform Agenda.

PILIPINA’s membership in the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) has also allowed the group to participate in the advocacy for women concerns related to macro-economic issues, particularly the debt issue. PILIPINA continues to sit as a member of the FDC Women Committee.

PILIPINA chapters have also been working closely with local government units (LGUs) in the implementation of gender-responsive programs in their respective areas. Two of its members have been tapped as women-in-development (WID) advisors to the Local Government Support Program (LGSP) in Regions 10 and 11. The LGSP is a program funded by CIDA which seeks to build the capacity of LGUs in fulfilling their mandates as provided for in the LGC of 1991. The WID advisors play a key role in providing gender awareness and ensuring that gender-responsive planning is carried out in these LGUs.

The PILIPINA Chapter in Cebu, led by its affiliate institution Lihok-Pilipina Foundation, initiated community-based programs addressing issues on violence against women which have been institutionalized through support from the city government. Together with other women’s groups, PILIPINA successfully lobbied for the setting up of a City Women’s Commission mandated to oversee the gender-responsive planning process of the city.

At present, PILIPINA chapters are preoccupied with the training of women leaders whom they fielded and campaigned for in the recent barangay elections.

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

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