ARMM authorities eye measures to shield women from election violence
COTABATO CITY – Local government units and security forces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Saturday vowed to protect women from threats and intimidation during the campaign period toward the May 9 elections.
In a forum organized by the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women (RCBW) and endorsed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), close to a thousand participants with police and military escorts filled the Sharif Kabunsuan Cultural Center and the surrounding ARMM Regional Complex with their vehicles that looked like a “Miting de Avance” of political parties.
It was a tightly secured event, said ARMM compound security chief, retired police general Marcelo Pintac, considering the presence of Comelec commissioners, provincial governors, town mayors, and other VIPs from various sector organizations.
Dubbed as “Gender and Election-Related Violence,” the gathering was the first-ever conceived by the RCBW that the Comelec would like to be duplicated in other parts of the country.
“This is a commitment to peaceful, orderly, and credible elections as embodied in the Fair Elections Act, that promotes gender equality,” said Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon.
Guanzon said women running for elective positions “need equal protection as they are more vulnerable to election-related violence.” Sittie Jehanne Mutin, RCBW chair, noted that the low participation rate of women in politics could be attributed to threats and intimidation. The forum held for the police, military and local authorities in the male-dominated political arena has been in line with the goal of transforming the country’s political environment into a fair and just playing field for all, Guanzon said.
She said that in the 2013 mid-term elections, only 18 percent of women candidates got elected into office.
In the 2010 national polls, 391 cases of election-related violence were reported and that number declined to only 196 in 2013, police records showed.
“This is a good indication, but we still have to ensure that the welfare of women candidates is advanced, and those manning polling precincts during elections are provided ample security,” said ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, who led incumbent LGUs in the tightly guarded forum.
ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Masuhud-Alamia said the regional awareness program of the RCBW has been meant to enhance security for women involved in politics and election-related processes and the disadvantaged, and guard against voter disenfranchisement due to technical or illiteracy problems.
“The problem of illiteracy in the ARMM involves at least one-third of voters in the region,” said human rights advocate Amina Rasul-Bernardo, founding member of Women in International Security-Philippines, and lead convener of Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy. SFM