Bill filed to get more women into Philippine politics

House of Representatives.

MANILA, Philippines - There is a need to change the male-dominated Philippine political landscape in order to foster equality, according to Akbayan party-list representatives.

To correct the imbalance, the lawmakers have introduced a bill that would provide financial incentives to political parties that would include more women members among their ranks and in positions of leadership.

At present, only a few women occupy top leadership positions in governance and politics, said Akbayan Representatives Ibarra Gutierrez and Walden Bello.

For instance, only 78 of the 289 current members of the House of Representatives are women, and only six of the 24 senators. This means that women make up less than a third of the legislature, they pointed out.

OF the country's 15 presidents, only two were women. Of the 15 Supreme Court justices, only three are women, including the Chief Justice.

"The slow speed of women participation in politics and governance is a barrier to fundamental equality, and such participation remains low," the Akbayan lawmakers said in their explanatory note.

Given this picture, the state must intervene to balance the scales, they said.

Equal representation

"By providing equal representation to top-level management posts and key policy-making units, women are assured that their needs and interests will be taken into account in decision-making processes that affect their lives on both the national and local levels," they said.

Under the Akabayan bill, political parties could have access to a Women in Political Parties Empowerment Fund if they could prove that women occupy at least 30 per cent of the leadership and internal policy-making structures of their groups, and if at least 30 per cent of women are nominated as official candidates of the parties.

The fund could be used for the political parties' women and gender and development programme, and to support the campaigns of their women candidates.

The amount to be released to the parties should be equal to the amount they have segregated and reserved for their women and gender and development agenda.

The parties would be required to make a full report on the amounts they had received and specify how they used them.

The Akbayan lawmakers said the Constitution provides for the recognition of the role of women in nation-building, and for the obligation to ensure the fundamental equality of women and men before the law.

The Magna Carta of Women also requires the state to carry out measures to accelerate the participation and equitable representation of women in decision-making and policy-making processes in government and private entities, they said.