At Large

Six women in the Senate



One of the less-noted developments in the recent elections is that, with much of the counting over, the country has just doubled the number of women in the Senate. As of this writing, no one among the victorious women is in danger of being dislodged from the winners’ circle, but none of those within shot of securing a place in the two remaining slots is a woman, either.

Reelectionist Sen. Loren Legarda easily secured a seat, although not the top post as she may have hoped. Instead, Loren was steamrollered by what some commentators have called “the Grace Poe juggernaut”—although it is still one for the books that for the first time in our electoral history, women candidates have taken the top two positions in the Senate polls.

Nancy Binay is secure in fifth place in the lineup. Former congresswoman Cynthia Villar, on the other hand, is hovering on uncertain ground in 10th place, but she seems to have retained that foothold in the winners’ circle.

These women join—or rejoin—Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago in the chamber, bringing to six the number of women in the Senate, the highest so far in history.

By June, we should be seeing whether this “bumper crop” of women senators will result in legislation that redounds to the betterment of the status of women and children in this country. Of course, they may say that they serve in the Senate as representatives of all Filipinos, and not just of women and children. But the majority of Filipinos are women and young people, so it’s a no-brainer. If women legislators cannot speak out, draft laws and champion the cause of women and children, then do we just count on the men to speak for us and act on our behalf? C’mon, sisters!

* * *

Based solely on their vote in favor of the “responsible parenthood and reproductive health” bill, but also taking into consideration their support for such measures as the Magna Carta of Women and, before that, the laws on trafficking of women and children, violence against women and their children, and others, we women know we can count on the continuing support of Senators Cayetano, Santiago and Legarda.

Poe, in her many public statements during the campaign, and in the perception of women’s groups, has proven herself an advocate for women and children, even in her work as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. Villar, on the other hand, joined her husband, former Senator Manny, in voting against the RH bill. But she framed her campaign propaganda in terms of “livelihood for women,” especially in poor barangays, so maybe we can count on her to champion economic opportunities for women. As a congresswoman, though, especially as head of the congresswomen’s caucus, she provided strategic leadership in pushing prowomen legislation. Hope springs eternal?

Binay remains a cipher, as she has been throughout the campaign. Her TV campaign ads proclaimed her as the “nanay  of the barangay,” meaning she would spend her time in the Senate looking after the welfare of young people. She is herself a mother of four, so we are at least assured that she has hands-on experience in the special challenges of raising a family and rearing children. Dare we hope she will translate this real-world experience to advocacy for women and children in her work in the Senate?

I await the statistics emerging from the results of elections for congressional representatives. Through the years, the number of congresswomen has been rising, and I hope we’ll see an increase this year, too. I look forward to welcoming back our long-time supportive allies in the House, and to meeting and introducing the neophyte women.

* * *

I hope this is not a farewell to public life for Risa Hontiveros. I made no bones about my support for her candidacy, and my belief in her—as a public figure, as a women’s advocate, as an agent for change, and as a person.

Some people expressed discomfort with the “persona” she projected in the campaign, and some told me they could not believe she could be as sweet and amiable in person as she appeared to be in her ads and public appearances. Well, I can say for sure that, while being no pushover, Risa in person is an even more palatable package. The public hasn’t even heard her sing yet!

But yes, it puzzled me—and many observers—no end why Risa seemed so difficult to “sell” as a candidate. After all, she had all the factors deemed necessary to make it in politics in these parts. She is (relatively) young, attractive, fearless in her political advocacy, articulate, loyal. Her only drawback, she has admitted, is that she doesn’t carry a name with much political cachet.

She even has a compelling narrative: widow of a police officer and mother of four, as well as an activist since her teens fighting the good fight for peace, human rights, agrarian reform, and, of course, women’s and children’s causes.

* * *

In an ironic statement—ironic because she herself fared even worse than Risa in the polls—former congresswoman Mitos Magsaysay said Risa’s failure was the result of the anti-RH Church vote. Or, as a friend told me recently, “There may be no Church vote, but there is a Church backlash.”

Indeed, it seemed at times that the bishops and priests had singled out Risa for attack, mainly because they deemed her the most vulnerable of the pro-RH candidates. If true, it says more about the anti-RH camp—vindictive, tunnel-visioned, antiwomen—than it does about Risa.

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  • buninay

    There is no Catholic vote and therefore no catholic backlash. To blame the church for the defeat of Hontiveros whom I also voted for is doing sourgraping to the extreme.

    • Edward Mendoza

      weh d nga…maimbento ka rin…

      Ang sabihin nyo kung may Catholic vote lahat nlng robot na…

      Tanga ka, magpasalamat ka nlng Katoliko ka kc binigyan ka ng kalayaan para mag desisyon sa sarili na naaayon sa konsensya nyo bilang galang sa Maylikha na nagbigay ng free will and intellect sa iyo..

  • t2jr

    the senate votes reflect the vote of our poor, the winning candidates have positioned themselves well on issues of the poor (gut needs): jobs, livelihood, education and health. the issues of the middle class are good governance, anti corruption, anti-political dynasty, freedom of information and abolition of pork barrel are languishing as shown by the trailing votes for candidates championing these causes. voters cast their votes according to their own issues. so, it is not true that these votes are not issue-based. At the local levels,many trapos are being kicked out by the electorate.

  • jcsantos

    Among the new female senators, 2 are severely lacking in any credentials:
    1. Grace Poe
    2. Nancy Binay

    2 are against both RH Bill and Divorce:
    1. Nancy Binay
    2. Cynthia Villar

    Other controversies:
    1. Grace Poe has NO stand on 5 out of 9 significant issues, possibly showing her indecisiveness that can appear in future issues she should be tackling.
    2. Nancy Binay has ZERO credentials to her name besides being a housewife and having a “20-year OJT” (which may or may not even have happened just as her supposed “charities” in her resume only started last December 2012!).
    3. Cynthia Villar is DIRECTLY involved in the C5 controversy, which ultimately dislodged any chances her husband had of winning the presidency. Why the sudden amnesia?

    Just because there are now more women in the Senate does NOT mean it will be favorable for women and children in general, or even for the nation.

    • Denis Chanco

      Grace Poe, didnt she graduate at Boston University?..and stayed, worked here in the states?…she is more than qualified, than those who got their degrees in farm land.. please..its not easy to get in Boston Colleage…

      • Edward Mendoza

        again, credentials/college degree has nothing to do with the job as senadores unless she is a lawyer…

        I’m certain this Grace Poe will join others for remedial classes at UP-NCPAG on good governance, how to make bill, laws, parliamentary debate, etc.

        Welcome to the world of Senate OJT…hahaha

      • Luthmar

        Grace Poe is a graduate of a very good school in America. She has a degree. Lawyers ba sina Bong Revilla, Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Estrada, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, etc. need I say more? Don’t forget she’s a board member of MTRCB; thus, she has at least an administration experience. WHAT OF NANCE BINAY?

      • jcsantos

        Grace Poe is INDEED way more experienced and fit than Nancy Binay, along with some of your listed senators, but that does not mean she is automatically qualified to lead. The problem is: there is a very big difference between having experience with MTRCB than actually handling a political position, and even much more than simply having a degree. I may have one son more qualified than the other, but that does not mean the more qualified son is immediately qualified for the presidency or even managerial position of the company.

        So what’s the solution? Simply more experience for the appropriate skills. I want her to be at her most effective when she serves the country, and she can only be when she gets the right amount of skills and experience to become an appropriate senator. Starting from mayor would do her wonders, especially when she shows everyone that she can tackle it effectively at such a level and is ready for the next level. Having minimal skills and experience to speak of leaves doubt on whether or not she can be effective as a senator. The same doubt cast on a private soldier being effective while only bringing a knife to a war zone; he may have the will and the intent to do what is good, but can he still do it despite his minimal equipment? Still possible actually, but very unlikely.

      • blowcoldblowhot

        Tell me more about the experience and appropriate skills of Cory Aquino a mere housewife.

      • jcsantos

        I didn’t think she had any, not to mention she made the country’s situation worse during her administration. Feel free to inform me what were her experience, skills and actual achievements during her administration. Please exclude the new constitution or other things initiated by other people, especially by the abusive Danding Cojuangco.

        She’s already one of the prime examples of why people with no experience or knowledge in politics should ever join it.

      • josh_alexei

        Do not put soo much emphasis on the Experience and Educational qualifications of Political Leaders but their ideals and their desires to pursue them…Last Election in our own part, we sent quite a few very “neophytes” mostly still living at home, 19 years and 20 years to our Parliaments and 2 years into their Mandates, they have shown their mettles and capabilities equal to their veteran peers…and Tommy Douglas was just a Baptist Minister when he was Chosen to Lead the First Socialist Party in North America, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in the l930 going out of Recession and brought us the Universal Health Care, the Unemployment Insurance, Social Assistance or Welfare..mothers allowances, Tax Funded Universal Secondary Education and the Man who made Alberta what is it now, no VAT or good and services tax for its Residence was just a Radio broadcaster and an Alcoholic,..but had a dream and was relentless in pursuit of those dreams for His People…The fact of the Matter, I have yet to Hear a Candidate telling the Voters of his Education Qualification and his Experience during the Campaign but what he is planning to do instead and how he will do them.

      • Denis Chanco

        Would you take your child to a doctor who did not finish medical school?

      • josh_alexei

        There are as many incompetent Medical Graduates as there are Quack “doctors” around, you might as well know. But where did you find a Doctor who got his degree his Degree from Recto?

      • Denis Chanco

        college degree is always a must..avoid the idiots like lito lapid..who has a reading comprehension of a third grader here in the states

      • josh_alexei

        But if you check the Constitution of every respective country, under the Citizen’s Democratic Rights, Running for Elected public office is a Right, not a Privilege..whereas, practicing Medicine, Law or any Profession is a Privilege, not a Right…And so is voting…That is why, in our country, we only have one Rule, IF YOU CAN VOTE, YOU CAN RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE…and to vote, you need to be 18 and a citizen, that is all…(one class of Citizenship)…so it is up to the Party (you need to be party Leader to become a PM) and the Voters to vote an illiterate 19 years old to the Prime Minister Office..But would the Party membership choose nothing but the very Best for their Leader instead.? It is rumoured that the Young Justin Trudeau has the Good Looks of her Mother, but also has her Brains…not of his Father’s. and he is the Liberal Party Leader and could be the next PM

      • Denis Chanco

        thats what north korea is for, countries in the third world usually have uneducated leaders..thata one of the big difference with well developed countries—its called standards—your standards are a reflection of the leaders you your case nancy binay..maybe you can share a stall in the fish market..

      • josh_alexei

        But Denis, before these countries became well developed, they were in the same Potato before…Most if not all of them started from Scratch..Let us count the ways. There were no shortages of very well educated Leaders the Philippines had..Other than Pres. Estrada, every Presidents she had were as qualified as any you can find anywhere..Its congress in the past and present was and is in Majority of well Educated Leaders, Mostly holders of Law Degree…(whereas, Lawyers in most well developed countries would rather make their fortune in private Practice and employment as Politics pays peanuts, the Most an MP in Canada can Make annually is $150 thousands..a practicing lawyer can make ten folds that amount easy, same with any other profession, that is why students and only the very Public service dedicated individuals will consider it and not very many will make it their lifetime career).

        But consider the Difference Politics can make to an Individual in the Philippines? Other than it is the Biggest Ego Booster, it is perhaps the easiest and fastest way to find the Gold Mine..That is the Root of the issues we are Discussing..there are many DEFECTS in the systems and that is the Reason why we find the Lito Lapid, Sotto, Jinggoy, Honasan, Legarda, and even Joker Arroyo and all those well Educated and non educated in the Senate and House that are better seen fighting the never ending conflicts in the country side and the poverty devastated neigbourhood, instead of their Luxurious Apartments bought by people taxes in “well developed countries” And these people are not lacking in Qualification…

      • Denis Chanco

        Look at the qualifications, horribly nothing, whybeven allow peasants with no educational background even a clue to run the fate of your country,maybe this is what you deserve..nobody steps up and say..hold on..this guy/girl is an idiot .and he is a senator?.this i your standard?..this is the one who represents you?..what standards do you have? Nancy binay?..thats your leader? How sad..

      • josh_alexei

        To further go on, what did the Very Bright among the Senators brought for the Country? Enrile, Miriam instead of fighting like cat and mouse in the Senate Floor, what have they done? Is the Philippines any better than without them? Now instead of addressing the personalities and why they get there, why not address the Defects of the Political Process? Why did Nancy Binay get elected after all? Find the answer and find the measures. And correct the Process. Because if we just keep complaining after the facts, there will be more of her kind and even more of Miriam, Enrile, Legarda, Honasan, and the Rebel Trilllanes, who should be in Prison instead of Senate. And do not blame me if you will find Mancao or Ray Aquino or Dumlao as the next Senators. We have Gays and Lesbians, undergraduates and drop outs (Ms Belinda Stronach was a drop out,) but none of the alleged criminals, suspects for murders, convicted plunderers (erap) child rapists (jaloslos) Gambling lords, Smuggling Lords, Extortionist…¸Give me a High School Drop out for my MP anytime but those.

      • Denis Chanco

        Because their are no standards, very few filter…once an exebition of intellect is demanded, such as debates..some run away…no accountability…each candidate should stand infront and explain why they deserve the right to serve as a senator..whats their plan, where they stand and why, ..non of this world peace crap….shine a light and hold them accountable…..those are a part of the measures..dont let any popular turkey just run for office…cuz the poor and uneducated will vote for bruce willis…ther should be a strong filter in your system to keep the idiots and crooks out of goverment..or your going to have the Binays , lito lapid, jinggoy estrada..and those candidates who only finished the third grade…make the majority have accomplished college degrees ..and shun the morons off the floor..

      • Denis Chanco

        really? that’s why that senate is a joke, the lack of educational credibility..thats what well developed country has..well educated leaders–tommy douglas was the 1930s plays a huge role if you want your country to move forward and and grow..a college degree should be a must..or maybe just be run by tribal leaders..think about it..thaats why we send our children to school, cuz education builds a better future…

      • Denis Chanco

        really, she has a degree in political science from Boston College..thats a touch school to get into, not only that she also taught her in the United States, …thats way to over qualified for a little third world country..

  • frrewilly

    im glad dumadami na women sa senate ngayon and this only shows na hindi lang tayong mga lalake ang may capabilities na maglead sa country. Tignan niyo nalang yung sa rh bill issue, nag step upo sina Miriam, Pia and Loren that time, Ngayon nadagdagan na, dyan na sila Grace and Cynthia. Good luck po sa inyo :)

  • rio51

    congratulations kay Cynthia Villar! I always believe na makakapasok siya sa top 12 :) galing naman. Sana makatulong siya sa kapwa niya a pilipino. This time nationwide na scope mo mam.

  • pepito gwaps

    Sorry to say that we had tried woman presidents and then we found it very disappointing .Now we have elected plenty of lady senators and let’s see if they would become good lawmakers of the country. If they turn to be a good public servants so it’s all right and we are lucky that we had them but if not please don’t blame ourselves and maybe we have better luck next time.

  • ancientorientalwisdom

    i like reading RJD, but there are some issues where she just can’t take off the blinders and therefore appears stupid when she really is not, if she could only admit her own prejudices and fallibilities. One of these blinders has to do with Risa Hontiveros. I too like Risa and would have wanted her to be in the Senate. But RJD’s article hardly contributes to understanding WHY Risa did not make it. RJD blames everybody, including the Church (ho hum, she’s pretty boring when it comes to the Church). Perhaps she should ask what factors contributed to Risa’s poor showing, compared to her 13th finish in 2010? PNoy certainly did all he could to get her into the magic 12 slate. Perhaps it is her party, Akbayan? Or her inability to really reach out to the masses? Maybe it’s her style? Maybe it’s her mestiza features which make what she says unbelievable (unlike a Nancy Binay)??? every now and then, RJD disappoints, and in this opinion piece, she disappoints tremendously!!!

  • JustWords811

    i voted for risa as my number 12. i hoped she would win but i suppose like me, others thought of her as a low priority choice, what with her pro-rh stance, her ‘socialist/leftist/communist’ orientation, her a la imelda alampay. if people knew more of her as a person and if she perhaps projected a more middle-of-the-road image…

  • Denis Chanco

    All senators should have college degrees

    • JuanTamadachi

      Uh oh Revilla & Lapid won’t like what you said. :)

      Seriously speaking, I couldn’t agree with you more. No more blind leading the blind for me.

  • JuanTamadachi

    Risa, being a baseball fan, I liken you to a batter who has two (2) strikes against him. Consequently, you’re still not out (out of the senatorial derby since there is 2016 to look forward to).

    Take heart from Fat Boy Mike Dorovo’s experience. It took him three (3) tries – he failed miserably in the first two (2) bar exams he took – before finally passing the bar by the skin of his teeth on his third attempt.

    (the above is a re-post of my comment from another thread)

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