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May 13 Philippine Elections: Issues Women Should Care About + Candidates Supporting Them

PHOTO: istockphoto/Mixi Ignacio

First of all, did you know that Filipinas were allowed to vote only beginning in 1937? Brave Pinays have been asking for the right to vote since the 1900s, and it took three decades before that dream could finally be realized. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity that our great-grandmothers fought hard to win for us.

You don’t have to consider yourself to be heavily into politics to cast your vote. Voting in the May 13 elections isn’t just about doing something for the country—it’s about choosing the best kind of life you and your family can have. Those who get elected will have a direct say in the way Filipinos lead their lives—even more so on the lives of Filipinas, because there are several important pieces of legislation that especially impact women. You don’t just owe it to the country to vote—you owe it to yourself.

Where do the candidates stand?

Ideally, it should be easy to figure out where your candidates stand on these issues.

Surprisingly, not all the leading candidates make their platforms readily available—not all of them even have a website (this is the 2019 elections, guys!). The televised debates have been helpful to clarify the stand of the candidates who showed up (so if you haven’t seen it, please do so here: CNN Philippines’ Senatorial Debate, ABS-CBN’s Harapan 2019, and GMA’s Senatorial Face-Off).

CNN Philippines Senatorial Debate
ABS-CBN Harapan 2019
GMA Senatorial Face-Off

Thankfully, some civic-minded citizens have taken it upon themselves to collate the available information to break it down for the rest of us. The group Youth for Human Rights and Democracy posted profiles of 25 senatorial candidates with summaries of each of the candidates’ stands on some of the most important issues facing the country today.


The UP Political Society also posted their list of "Sinotoriables 2019."

Ronald Gem Celestial, an undergrad from UP Los Baños, tweeted that he “PERSONALLY INTERVIEWED the candidates, compiled their answers from debates and interviews, and created this spreadsheet summarizing their SALN (Statement of Liabilities, Assets, and Net Worth) minus total ad spend, stands on key issues, and ongoing cases against them” to create this Google Docs file.

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***View the Google Docs file here.***

Still too much to wade through? CL Pagaduan, a DLSU graduate with a degree in Information Technology, put his skills to good use by taking Ronald Celestial’s data to plug into this interactive dashboard to help voters even more. You simply have to click on the boxes corresponding to key issue, and the dashboard will tell you which candidates are for it or against it.

***View the interactive dashboard here.***

What issues should YOU, as a WOMAN, care about?

During the campaign season, some candidates used their time to tell voters about their platforms. Others…well, not so much. This is a shame because there are a number of crucial pieces of legislation that affect women—the passage of the Divorce Act, for one thing, would help women in particular, as current laws are disadvantageous to wives when it comes to annulment and legal separation. Other issues, such as labor contractualization, may not be as obviously connected to women’s rights, but nonetheless are. Here are five key issues that Filipinas should care about.

  1. Divorce Bill

    The Philippines is the only country in the world (besides the Vatican, which counts as a city-state) where there is no divorce. Sen. Risa Hontiveros is the author of the proposed Divorce Act (also known as Senate Bill 2134), which will finally provide for absolute divorce for couples. Under this act, couples may divorce if there is abuse, marital rape, separation (for at least five years), and irreconcilable marital differences, among other causes.

    Why this is important to women: Under current laws, women can only opt for legal separation or annulment of the marriage. Legal separation is limited, and would not allow women to get remarried, for one thing. Annulment, on the other hand, is a long and expensive process that is out of reach for many Filipinos. Abandonment, non-payment of child support, abuse, and concubinage or adultery are not grounds for annulment, which results in women staying in abusive relationships.

    Who’s for the passage of the Divorce Act: Abner Afuang, Shariff Albani, Raffy Alunan, Sonny Angara, Gerald Arcega, Ernesto Arellano, Toti Casiño, Pia Cayetano, Melchor Chavez, Glenn Chong, Neri Colmenares, Ka Leody de Guzman, Chel Diokno, JV Ejercito, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gen Pederalismo Generoso, Samira Gutoc, Pilo Hilbay, Emily Mallilin, Serge Osmeña, Dado Padilla, Mar Roxas, Erin Tañada, Butch Valdes

  2. Anti-Discrimination Bill/SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Bill

    The bill is aimed at preventing discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. The bill, championed by Sen. Hontiveros in the upper chamber, passed the final reading in 2017, and is still in the Senate in the period of interpolation. There is a June 2019 deadline for the bill to be passed. Non-passage of the bill by June 5 means that the process will have to start from scratch. (Incidentally, there is a second, more comprehensive version of this bill that would have covered discrimination against religious beliefs, sex, gender, ethnicity, race, and even HIV status—which did not make it through Congress.

    Why this is important to women: There are currently no laws that prevent a woman from being fired from work, for example, for being LGBT or for choosing to cross-dress.

    Who’s for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill/SOGIE Equality Bill: Gary Alejano, Richard Alfajora, Raffy Alunan, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Gerald Arcega, Ernesto Arellano, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Melchor Chavez, Neri Colmenares, Ka Leody de Guzman, Chel Diokno, JV Ejercito, Elmer Francisco, Samira Gutoc, Pilo Hilbay, Koko Pimentel, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas, Erin Tañada, Francis Tolentino

  3. Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR)

    The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) is simply the age at which a person can be tried as an adult. At the beginning of the year, Philippine legislators approved the lowering of the MACR from 15 to 12 years old (a compromise from the initial proposal to lower the MACR to 9 years old).

    Why this is important to women:  All mothers should consider this a grave matter regarding their children. The MACR doesn’t just affect children convicted of a crime; this is about how all children will be treated when they are accused of a crime.

    Who’s in favor of lowering the MACR: Gerald Arcega, Emily Mallillin, Doc Willie Ong, Koko Pimentel 

  4. Marriage Equality

    Marriage equality is about guaranteeing all couples the right to marry, regardless of gender or sexual orientation or identity. This means giving the same right to LGBT couples.

    Why this is important to women: Marriage equality will mean that lesbians and trans women will have the right to marry.

    Who’s in favor of marriage equality: Abner Afuang, Raffy Alunan, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Ernesto Arellano, Neri Colmenares, Ka Leody De Guzman, Bato dela Rosa, JV Ejercito, Juan Ponce Enrile, Elmer Francisco, Gen Pederalismo Generoso, Pilo Hilbay, Emily Mallillin, Serge Osmeña, Dado Padilla, Erin Tañada, Francis Tolentino

  5. Contractualization

    A study by the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) that contractualization and other “flexibilization” labor policies lead to more violations of women’s rights.

    Why this is important to women: Women workers have low levels of knowledge about their rights, the study found, and are often discouraged from forming unions. “This low awareness of their rights as women and workers has made them vulnerable to various acts of oppression, including physical, personal, and sexual abuse in the workplace,” reads the NAPC’s statement.

    Who wants an end to contractualization: Abner Afuang, Shariff Albani, Gary Alejano, Richard Alfajora, Bam Aquino, Gerald Arcega, Ernesto Arellano, Marcelino Arias, Bernard Austria, Balde Baldevarona, Jesus Caceres, Melchor Chavez, Glenn Chong, Neri Colmenares, Ka Leody de Guzman, Chel Diokno, JV Ejercito, Elmer Francisco, Charlie Gaddi, Larry Gadon, Samira Gutoc, Pilo Hilbay, Emily Mallillin, Jiggy Manicad, Jose Sonny Matula, Luther Meniano, Allan Montaño, Serge Osmeña, Dan Kaibigan Roleda, Mar Roxas, Erin Tañada

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