HOR COMPLEX, Quezon City (DWDD) – Lady legislators have agreed that the Duterte government’s planned shift to federalism will also bear impact on women and that priority should be given to preserve their rights.
The lady members of the House of Representatives discussed the future of women during a forum about federalism and its impact on women organized by the Association of Women Legislators Foundation, Inc. (AWLFI) in cooperation with the House committee on women and gender equality.
The forum is part of the celebration of the House of Representatives Month.
Rep. Linabelle Ruth Villarica (4th District, Bulacan), president of AWLFI, said the gathering with the theme “Forum on Federalism: What Is In It for Women” was a way of putting forth the message that in any form of government, women’s rights should be given priority.
“We are here to inform you of our choices and to enable us to cascade our learning to key people in our congressional districts. We want to make sure the rights of women are given priority in any form of government,” said Villarica.
Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar (Party-list, DIWA), chairperson of the committee on women and gender equality, said the impact of federalism on women was being overlooked as research persons on federalism are mostly men speaking from a male perspective of power.
“Resource persons on this topic, whether academics, practitioners, policy analysts, political leaders, both local and foreign, are mostly men speaking from a male perspective of power,” said Villar.
Villar further said: “The impact of this multilevel governance on women has in fact been largely ignored by gender scholars.”
Villar said there have been debates and discussions about federalism all over the country and that some may have already taken a position on the issue, or at least leaning towards a certain side.
“Decisions may have been arrived based on the decision that federalism impacts Filipinos the same way. The myopic view that federalism affects men and women in the same way is a worldwide phenomenon,” said Villar.
Dr. Socorro L. Reyes, Chief Policy Adviser at the Office of Rep. Rodolfo Albano III (1st District, Isabela) and Regional Governance Adviser of the Center for Legislative Development, said there was not a single forum that has looked at the different impact of federalism on women and men.
“The discourse assumes that federalism affects women and men in the same way. But it does not,” Reyes said.
Under federalism, Reyes explained that women will have the opportunity to change provisions in the Constitution that do not work for them, such as the electoral system and the party system.
Likewise, Reyes said women will be given the opportunity to introduce gender provisions in the Constitution, such as gender equality and women rights as human rights, and provisions which state that national and sub-national laws must conform with international human rights standards, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW), and with the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions on women’s participation in the peace process, among others.
“Gender equality should be a separate stand-alone subject for legislation. If there’s a separate legislation for wild flowers, endangered species and wild animals, why isn’t there one for women?” she said.
Reyes said “upholding women’s rights as human rights is extremely important because when you talk about human rights you talk about all rights – economic rights, social and political rights but where are the women’s rights?”
Dr. Maria Ela Atienza, chairperson and professor at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines, talked about opportunities and issues which affect health services for women under federalism.
Atienza said some of the opportunities for improving and championing women’s health with federalism in the Philippines are: the scaling up of exemplary and innovative health programs for women at the regional/ state level; new regional venues and multiple access points for women’s participation and advocacies at the regional level; and more broad-ranging partnership and collaboration possible at the regional level for women’s health.
On the other hand, Atienza said, issues that must be addressed to champion women’s health under federalism in the country include: accountability; good governance and participation at the multiple levels of the government; and awareness and appreciation of general health and women’s health issues not only among state and local authorities but also citizens and resources and expenditures for women’s and general health programs at the regional and local levels.
Atienza said “if there are provisions in the Constitution which will actually allow the national government to come in during failures of governance, then that can actually remedy the problem.”
Rep. Elisa Kho (2nd District, Masbate), chairperson of the House committee on sustainable development goals, said with federalism, there will be more participation of the communities in government health programs.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rosanna “Ria” Vergara (3rd District, Nueva Ecija) raised the possibility of failure of delivery of health services under federalism similar to what happened when the delivery of health services was devolved to local government units (LGUs) as provided under the Local Government Code which was implemented in 1991. CONGRESS.gov.ph / MCAG