At Large

The Purple Seven

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Like the “Catholic vote,” the “women’s vote” has been much talked about, speculated upon and searched for. But so far, the evidence for it has been sparse, with a consensus emerging that in fact many women voters do not vote for women candidates, or for candidates who support women’s issues.

Out to disprove the nonexistence or weakness of a “women’s vote” in the country are the organizers of the “Purple Vote,” a multisectoral effort to harness voter support for senatorial candidates who espouse women’s causes, particularly reproductive health, and who “will stand by the RH Law and ensure its implementation.”

But aside from supporting the RH Law, Dr. Esperanza Cabral, Purple Vote main convenor and a former health and social welfare secretary, said the Senate aspirants endorsed by it should also “hold a good position” on social justice issues, and have a track record of “serving the public with integrity.”

Thus, after consulting with their respective memberships, Purple Vote organizers are endorsing: Risa Hontiveros, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Bam Aquino and Chiz Escudero.

Hontiveros fought for the passage of an RH bill during her three terms as Akbayan party-list representative in the House and became the “face” of RH advocacy, making herself vulnerable to the concerted “anti-RH” campaign mounted by conservative Church groups.

Legarda, Cayetano, and Escudero not just voted in favor of the RH bill, but also worked hard in defending and supporting it in the Senate. Angara was one of the most stalwart leaders of the “battle for RH” in the House, and a leading figure in the effort to pass the “Magna Carta of Women.” Poe and Aquino, meanwhile, have been vocal in their support for women’s rights, particularly the rights to choose and to enjoy good health.

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“We have faith that if elected, these candidates would ensure the Law’s implementation and would not put personal interests before the good of the citizens,” said Purple Vote in a statement. “On May 13, we will vote for these candidates and we hope that the majority of Filipino voters—the same majority who has supported the RH bill through the years—will do the same.”

Legarda, who is leading most voter polls and was represented in the Purple Vote launch by her father, Tony, reiterated her commitment to “the cause of women’s rights, including freedom from violence, quality healthcare, education and access to jobs.” “Experience has shown that we cannot always agree on every issue,” she said, but added that she believes “we all share the desire to make democracy work in favor of those who have less in life.”

Angara reminded everyone that “the battle for women’s health and empowerment does not end [with the passage of the RH Law].” Once he makes it to the Senate, he said, “[I] will continue to fight for the rights, protection, and equal opportunities of women,” declaring that it is his goal “to purge from the Filipino culture the myth of a weaker gender.”

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Well, sisters, come May 13, we, too will have the chance—no, the power—to put that myth to rest.

I don’t know if the victory of the seven endorsed by Purple Vote will finally bring an end to talk that there is no such thing as a “women’s vote” in this country. But if they all win—even Risa is just two positions away from the winning circle—we will be at least assured that the possibility of having the RH Law amended or revoked will remain remote, if not impossible.

And note that Purple Vote endorses just seven out of a possible 12-member full senatorial lineup. Individual voters may choose any five among the 30 or so aspirants, although may I point out that among those not included in the seven are staunch anti-RHs, some of whom have even vowed to reopen the contentious debates that marked the thorny passage of the RH Law.

I for one am weary of this endless hemming and hawing, even if the majority of Filipinos have already made themselves heard—over and over, year after year—on their support for reproductive health and rights. On May 13, let’s all make ourselves heard, loud and clear.

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ONE of the more innovative campaign tactics of senatorial candidates is the “Listening Tour” being conducted by Alan Peter Cayetano, who is seeking reelection. The tour has seen the senator travelling around the country talking—and listening—to small groups, including farmers, workers, young people and even netizens.

In a recent sortie to Sariaya, Quezon, Cayetano met with coconut farmers and coco coir factory workers as part of a tour of Pilipinas Eco Fiber.

Among those Cayetano met was Mang Eladio, who complained about having to sell his coconut husks at a much reduced price because of falling demand. Among Cayetano’s proposed solutions: development of the coco industries, particularly maximizing the potential of the coco coir industry. Indeed, the senator said he hopes the country would soon become one of the top three exporters of coco coir in the world, if not the “Coco Coir Capital of Asia.”

Also a part of Cayetano’s Listening Tour was a recent “town hall” meeting conducted online (streamed live on his Facebook and YouTube page) with call center employees and job seekers. This is part of his advocacy for increased support for the country’s growing business process outsourcing industry.

Overall, the Listening Tour is the concrete expression of Cayetano’s catchy campaign platform, “PTK”—for presyo (prices), trabaho (jobs) and kita (income), which expresses in three letters the core of poor Filipinos’ dreams and desire for a better life.

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