Women politicians in PH exercise less power, says US think tank
There may have been a surge in the number of women politicians elected in the country last May 9 but this does not necessarily translate into more political clout, a US-based think tank said in its recently released report.
The Carter Center, a nongovernment organization advancing democracy and conflict resolution, observed that the women politicians elected are being perceived as “place-holders” for male incumbents who have reached their term limits.
The Center noted that aside from Vice President-elect Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, there are six female senators and 86 female members of the House of Representatives composing the 17th Congress.
“The reality is, however, that women exercise less power than those numbers indicate. The Filipino phenomenon of political dynasties is so deeply engrained in the political culture that a substantial number of the elected women are considered to be place-holders. When spouses, brothers, or other male relatives reach term limits, the male incumbents step aside for a term, to return as soon as the term has passed,” the report read.
Because of the deeply ingrained culture of political dynasty in the country, the think tank said that women politicians are perceived as being controlled by their male relatives.
“While the female may appear to be the office-holder, there is sometimes a public perception that in fact the male relative is exercising effective power and control,” it said.
The Center also took note of the controversial remark of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte about the late Australian missionary which sparked a firestorm for supposedly trivializing rape, and the election of Geraldine Roman in the lower chamber as a “significant milestone in the advancement of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights.”
Aside from gender issues, the Carter Center also reported the experiences and problems faced by other sectors such as the indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities (PWDs).
The report said that indigenous people face barriers to voting, such as long distances to registration and polling centers, high levels of illiteracy and difficulty in identity documentation needed for voter registration.
The think tank also said that the reality in the country remains that low numbers of PWDs register to vote and there is an even lower number of PWDs who actually vote. It also noted that no PWD party-list has held a seat in the House of Representatives.
While it has identified barriers to voting, the report extolled the efforts made by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in making voting accessible to the said marginalized sectors.
The Carter Center deployed its election observation mission last March 21 and has focused its work on Mindanao. It will publish a final report on its observation work to give recommendations on how the country can improve its electoral process. RAM/rga
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