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Gender and trash in the elections

TODAY BEING International Women’s Day, it’s worth noting that the fact that two women are running for president and another woman is running for vice president of this country is no longer worth noting.

Women seeking public office are no longer all that unique or unusual. Perhaps after having two women presidents, Filipinos see women as truly part of the political landscape, no longer mere tokens or symbols of political correctness, or consorts, decorative and fancy.

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Indeed, so “usual” have women become as political players that feminists in the United States are coming out publicly to reject Hillary Clinton, who was thought to have the women’s vote in the bag, in favor of the “other” Democrat aspiring for the nomination, Bernie Sanders.

Time was when women voters were thought to automatically choose the woman candidate over her male counterpart, based in part on the theory that, by tradition and experience, women were outsiders to the realm of power and politics and would thus better know the aspirations and feelings of society’s outsiders and minorities. “Who can better articulate and champion the women’s cause than a woman herself?” was the thinking.

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Perhaps that has changed over time, specially now that efforts at mainstreaming gender have been gaining momentum. The answer to the question, maybe, is that it all depends on the individual woman candidate: her experience, her qualifications, her personal and political stances, the policies she will craft and implement, and her choice of priorities.

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WILL gender play a role in the choice of winners in the May elections?

The sad truth is that in the Philippines, women do not always vote for other women. So many other factors come into play, especially this year when the field is still, this close to Election Day, anybody’s game. The last time we voters faced such an array of candidates clustered so close together was in 1992. Fidel Ramos of Lakas-NUCD won the polls, but only by a small margin over Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, now running again for president. But since the presidential field was so much wider then, Ramos effectively became a “minority” president, although he would later comment that as the years wore on, “I seemed to have gained more and more votes.”

Only a few percentage points separate the four leading candidates (Santiago ranks far behind with a single-digit score), and despite the tight schedule, any one of the four can still eke out a narrow electoral victory.

Vice President Jojo Binay has promised a “repeat” of the 2010 elections, when he “came from behind” in the vice presidential race, gaining support by increments until he finally tied with then VP candidate Mar Roxas, who had been leading before then, and emerged the winner.

But by the same token, Roxas, who has been slowly inching his way up in the polls, may pull a similar surprise tactic. The impressive gains being made by his running mate, Rep. Leni Robredo, in the polling figures indicate there is momentum in the Liberal Party’s campaign. Does the trajectory apply to Roxas as well?

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The results of the May 9 polls can very well create new theories and provide new lessons for those eyeing and studying our politics, as well as finally demolish hoary assumptions about how Filipino voters behave and make their choices. I would like to know, in particular, if the election results could be broken down by gender of voter, and if women could and would vote for another woman.

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“CLEAN elections” is everyone’s desire these days. And yet, while elections free from mudslinging, voter bribery and intimidation, fraud and violence may seem but a pipe dream, to be fulfilled far into the future, there is an aspect of it that can come true, without too much trouble.

And that is, according to Sen. Loren Legarda, “clean” elections free from litter and environmental damage. In a statement, the senator, who is not running in this year’s polls, called on all candidates to embark on a clean campaign, mainly by avoiding posting campaign materials on trees and in other prohibited areas.

The Commission on Elections, for one, along with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, has been launching drives to rid the metropolis of the clutter and debris that usually attend election campaigns. A source at the MMDA says they are able to collect about 50 truckloads of illegally posted or oversized campaign posters and materials each day they go out to enforce the law.

Legarda called on local governments, whose own leaders are themselves running for reelection, to ensure that campaign materials are displayed “only in common poster areas as prescribed by law.” These materials, she added, should not be posted on trees, heritage buildings, public infrastructure and other places not designated as poster areas. Poster areas, according to the Fair Elections Act, consist of public places such as plazas, markets and barangay centers. Posters may also be put up on private homes and buildings provided the owners give their permission.

Particularly reprehensible is the posting of materials on trees, which may be irreparably harmed when materials are nailed on them. It is illegal, said Legarda, to cut, destroy or injure planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises or in any other public ground.

The senator also encouraged candidates to use campaign materials that are recyclable and eco-friendly, as well as urge their supporters to “make sure that in every campaign rally, the surroundings are kept clean and free of trash and litter.”

Perhaps a good guideline for voters is: By their trash you shall know them—the candidates and their parties.

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TAGS: Elections, Equality, Feminism, feminist, gender, opinion, vote, voter, Voting, woman, women, women voter
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