July 19, 2012
MIRIAM NIXES CHACHA
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, said that she is against charter change at this time.
"If there should be charter change at all, it should be done by election of delegates to a constitutional convention, and not by transforming Congress into a constitutional assembly," she said.
She added that transforming Congress into a constituent assembly would raise suspicion among the people that legislators might be serving certain agendas under pressure from vested interests and other lobby groups.
"Certain politicians boast that even if the nation calls for a constitutional convention with elected delegates, the local politicians would be able to control who the delegates will be. That is hubris, unjustifiable pride of authority," the senator said.
The solution to this, she said, is to educate the voting public of the need to disassociate the constitutional process from political patronage.
"President Aquino, at best, seems to be lukewarm to the idea of charter change. His spokespersons have pointed out that the economy under President Aquino has substantially improved, without resorting to a drastic change in the constitutional provisions requiring majority ownership by Filipinos of major corporations, particularly those dealing with exploitation of our natural resources. I agree with his view," she said.
The senator said that it is not necessary to amend the Constitution in order to attract foreign investors.
"The reason why foreign investors shy away from the Philippines at this time is not the ownership rule mandated by our Constitution. There are two main reasons for the lack of foreign investment," the senator said.
She said that the first reason is the corruption embedded in our bureaucracy; and second reason is the present standoff with China, which threatens the West Philippine Sea.
"Investors are culturally shy of investment opportunities in a country that faces potential instability from a neighbor state that is less than friendly," she said.
The senator said that there is no overwhelming emergency that charter change will solve.
"Why do we have to rush this before next year's elections? The chacha advocates even breached protocol by failing to inform Pres. Aquino of their chacha initiative," she said.
Santiago was guest speaker at the General Assembly of the Friends of Asia-Pacific World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Philippines, on 19 July 2012, at the GSP Social Hall
GIRL SCOUTS AND WOMEN POWER
No to Charter Change
I presume that I was invited here, not only because I am a Girl Scout alumna, but also because I am a senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments. Begging your indulgence, I take this opportunity to declare that I am against present proposals for charter change, and even more opposed to the proposal of charter change through a constituent assembly. If there should be charter change at all, it should be by means of an elected constitutional convention. Transforming Congress into a constituent assembly would raise suspicion among our people that legislators might be serving certain agendas, under pressure from vested interests and other lobby groups.
Certain politicians boast that even if the nation calls for a constitutional convention with elected delegates, the local politicians would be able to control who the delegates will be. That is hubris, unjustifiable and excessive pride of authority. The solution to this is to educate the voting public of the need to disassociate the constitutional process from political patronage.
President Aquino, at best, seems to be lukewarm to the idea of charter change. His spokespersons have pointed out that the economy under President Aquino has substantially improved, without resorting to a drastic change in the constitutional provisions requiring majority ownership by Filipinos of major corporations, particularly those dealing with exploitation of our natural resources. I agree with the president's view.
It is not necessary to amend the Constitution in order to attract foreign investors. The reason why foreign investors shy away from the Philippines at this time is not the ownership rule mandated by our Constitution. Instead, there are two main reasons for the lack of foreign investment. The first reason is the corruption embedded in our bureaucracy. The second reason is the present standoff with China, which threatens the West Philippine Sea. Investors are culturally shy of investment opportunities in a country that faces potential instability from a neighbor state that is less than friendly.
There is no overwhelming emergency that charter change will solve. As I understand them, the advocates want charter change before the May elections next year. Speed in action is always a virtue, but not necessarily in charter change. In fact, any attempt to write a charter in whole or in part requires the deepest analysis from our most qualified leaders. In other words, why the rush? Haste makes waste.
Girl Scout Movement
I understand that 2012 marks the 100th year of the Girl Scout movement. I am personally excited to get back on board the Girl Scout movement, which is widely regarded as the premier leadership organization for girls in the world. The Girl Scouts have declared 2012 as the "Year of the Girl." Accordingly, you have launched "To Get Her There," considered to be the "largest, boldest, advocacy and fundraising cause campaign dedicated to girls' leadership issues in the nation's history." This is an effort of several years that will make it easier for girls to succeed in everything from technology and science, to business and industry.
In the long term, the "To Get Her There" campaign seeks "to create balanced leadership in one generation." In other words, the Girl Scout movement will address revitalized energy to building "girls of courage, confidence, and character." Under this movement, I hope that more Filipino girls will be encouraged to join public service, and even to adopt a work ethic that will propel them to the highest positions of leadership in Philippine government.
The past 100 years of Girl Scouting has resulted in positive life outcomes, marked by sense of self, volunteerism and community work, civic engagement, education, as well as income and socio-economic status. Hence, I personally and very strongly recommend Girl Scouting, because my experience was positive and rewarding. I fondly recall fun, friendships, and crafts that I developed. I was exposed to nature and I had a safe place to try new things. In conclusion, I will definitely attest that my Girl Scout experience produced a positive impact on my life.
I have participated as either author or sponsor on certain significant laws that empower women. Among them are: Magna Carta of Women; Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act; Anti-Child Pornography Act; Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law; and Empowerment of Night Workers Act.
At present, among the bills I have filed which are still pending in the Senate are those that seek to further empower women in society. These bills seek to:
* Establish a breastfeeding center in every barangays;
Women and Politics
Our Constitution provides that: "The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men." (Article 2, Section 14). This constitutional mandate has been carried out by various laws, most notably the Women in Nation-Building Law" (R.A. No. 7192).
Our female population is young, mostly women between 15 to 40 years old. But although women are half of the Philippine population, there are still a number of inequalities between men and women. On the one hand, 35% of Filipino administrators and managers are women - constituting one of the highest in the world. The Philippines has the highest Gender Empowerment Measure (or GEM) in East Asia. But on the other hand, because of marriage and parenthood, women are discriminated against when they seek employment. When business companies want to avoid giving women regular employment, they give only five-month labor contracts to women.
Even though the Philippines has seen two female presidents, politics is still dominated by the male elite. Women are disadvantaged in politics because of their lack of political clout, access to resources, and economic power.
It is said that the year 2001 was a watershed in the era of women in politics. No women's party was able to qualify in the party-list elections. The defeat of the women sector is paradoxical, because there are more women registered voters than men, and it appears that during elections, the female turnout is higher than the male turnout. Thus, there is no such thing as a "women's vote" in our country.
When women enter politics, it is often the case that they do so only because of family connections. In many cases, the so-called "women benchwarmers" run for public office, simply to fill a vacancy created when their husbands or fathers are required by the law on term limits to abstain from running themselves. Thus, to a large extent, it is correct to say that men still control the political careers of women.
The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women seeks to implement the national policy of making gender part of mainstream politics. For example, in Congress, we have raised gender-specific issues such as domestic violence, prostitution, sexual harassment, and rape. It appears to be a general conclusion that the Philippines leads in gender equality in East Asia.
Still and all, in our country our efforts are concentrated merely on the level of uplifting the status of women. We should partner this effort with the policy that our country should follow a sophisticated gender-balanced approach.
Today, there is still gender stereotyping by occupation. In the last 30 years, there has been a rise of women's empowerment. But while women empowerment has made modest success in political participation and law reform, we have not yet succeeded in economic empowerment, and in sexual and domestic violence.
To further promote women empowerment, we need to take two approaches. The first is the convergence approach, which harmonizes poverty reduction and social protection programs. The second is the integrated approach, as exemplified by the Gender-Responsive Economic Acts for the Transformation of Women, also known as the GREAT Women Project. It is a governance and capacity development project aiming to promote a gender-responsive enabling environment for women's economic empowerment, particularly those in micro enterprises.
As a student of international law, I will conclude that for Filipina women to be truly empowered, all we have to do is to remember one basic rule: Women's rights are human rights. The best way to end gender discrimination and gender- based rights violations is to insist on the application of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. All we have to do is to make it nonnegotiable that individual men and women have equal rights and fundamental freedoms, and that government should protect the basic dignity of the person.
In the Bible, there is a book called Apocryptha. One passage describes the reaction of the people to the following question: What is the strongest power in the world? The first wrote: Wine is the strongest. The second wrote: The king is the strongest. The third wrote: Women are strongest. But above all things, truth bears away the victory (1 Esdras Ch 3, v 10).
Assuming arguendo that women are the strongest force on the planet, we women bear the responsibility for telling the truth. Particularly in the Philippines, women politicians should insist that government should tell the truth, for the truth shall set as free.
Thursday, May 23
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