How Duterte fares on women empowerment


    ‘Our President, however, should show a little more respect to women in his public
    pronouncements, because he is President of all Filipinos…’

    EARLY in his administration, President Duterte showed the nation and the world his uncouth behavior toward women, dishing out malicious jokes and innuendos, and generally showing discourtesy to the womenfolk.

    It is small wonder then that during the recent celebration of International Women’s Day, feminists on social media reminded the people of Duterte’s disparaging attitude and patronizing view of women.

    A cursory review of the Chief Executive’s public engagements with women will clearly show that Duterte’s social media critics are correct. Yes, the President had been unfair and disrespectful of women.

    Unable to defend his boss’ oblique references on women, presidential spokesman Harry Roque shifted the narrative to how Duterte’s government has been doing its work in the field of empowerment of women and gender equality.

    According to Roque, the Philippines has kept its status as the “most gender equal nation” in Asia based on a 2020 report made by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Roque affirmed further that the nation ranked first in Asia and 16th worldwide in closing gender disparity. He noted that the Philippines is the only country in Asia in the Top 20, followed only by Laos in Number 43.

    The Palace spokesman also took note of the fact that in the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 of WEF, the Philippines placed 16th among 153 countries with the narrowest gap between men and women, dropping from 8th place in 2019. The country scored high in closing gender gap in economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival.

    These statistics, while true, do not mean the Philippines treats its women well, but that most Asian countries are abusive and condescending on their women.

    The Philippines’ political empowerment score, however, declined amid the low women representation in government. This, however, is open to question because we know that many women are now actively involved in governance as elected barangay heads, councilors, mayors, governors, representatives and senators. Even the vice president, Leni Robredo, is a woman. And in the Senate when women senators pushed for the resolution paying tribute to women, they came in full force with their signatures as co-authors: Risa Hontiveros, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar, Imee Marcos and Leila de Lima.

    Duterte also signed laws promoting the welfare of women, such as RA 11210 that provides additional leave benefits for working mothers, and RA 11148 that provides health and nutrition services during the first 1,000 days of life.

    In governance as a whole, we can say our Filipino women are in better shape here than in other Asian countries, especially those with Muslim culture. Our President, however, should show a little more respect to women in his public pronouncements, because he is President of all Filipinos, and women compose half of his 110 million constituents.