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Closing the gender imbalance at the managerial level in government
by PIA

Gender equity and women empowerment have gone a long way in the Cordillera region especially in the participation and representation of women in decision and policy making processes in government.

The region was created on July 15, 1987 with the signing of Executive Order 220 by then president Corazon Aquino. To operationalize the Cordillera Administrative Region, Administrative Order 36 was issued on Sept. 23 of the same year, which called for the establishment of the regional offices of various national government line agencies in the newly created region.

Most heads of the newly established regional offices were males. In the vast bureaucracy, there were only three female officials. Slowly but surely, women started to emerge as heads of offices and departments, inching towards closing the huge gap in gender inequality in government.

Today, at least eight of the big line agencies are headed by women directors. The Department of Health is now headed by Dr. Juliet Allaga, albeit in an OIC capacity. The agency was headed by Dr. Myrna Cabotaje who is now assigned to region 1. The Department of Tourism, which has been at the frontline of marketing the region’s attractions, is headed by Director Purificacion Molintas.

The region’s Department of Education office is headed by Dr. Ellen Donato. The post was formerly held by Dr. Josefina Tamondong.

Director Liza Fangsilat has been heading the Department of Budget and Management for years now. The Department of the Interior and Local Government is headed by a woman, Director Corazon Guray. The assistant regional director post is also held by a woman, Myrna Monayao.

At the forefront of promoting the Cordillera’s business potentials is another woman, Director Myrna Pablo, who heads the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Department of Transportation and Communication, which has been headed by men for years, is now led by Director Celina Claver.

The Department of Labor and Employment was headed by Atty. Ana Dione until her appointment last January as labor attaché to Bahrain. Also at the helm of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for a long time was Porfiria Bernardez who was reassigned to the central office last March. Both were replaced by male officials. This is also the first time that DSWD has a male regional director.

Among the agencies with women heads of offices in the Cordillera are the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Rebecca Dang-awan; Commission on Audit, Rosemarie Lerio; Commission on Population, Maria Aurora Quiray; Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, Teresita Galacgac; and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Micheline Inay.

The National Conciliation and Mediation Board is headed by Brenda Rose Odsey; National Nutrition Council, June Falancy; National Statistics Office, Olivia Gulla; Office of Civil Defense, Olivia Luces; and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Manuela Pena. The Philippine Information Agency is headed by Helen Tibaldo; Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Delfina Camarillo; Professional Regulation Commission was formerly headed by Evangeline Marilyn Vergara; Securities and Exchange Commission, Annie Tesoro and Jocelyn Retuya.

Interestingly, there are four agencies whose top two positions are occupied by women executives: DepEd, DBM, DTI, and COA. Other agencies with a female second in rank include the Department of Agriculture, National Economic Development Authority, Parole and Probation Administration, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Local Government Finance, and Bureau of Treasury.

Of the six state colleges and universities in the region, one is headed by a woman, the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College under Dr. Nieves Dacyon. The University of the Philippines Baguio was headed by Chancellor Priscilla Macansantos until she relinquished her post last April 13.

The Abra State Institute of Science and Technology had for its college president Dr. Imelda Buenafe until her retirement recently.

At certain points in CAR’s 23 years of existence, women executives were at the helm of their offices: the DA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agrarian Reform, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Police Commission, Philhealth, Commission on Human Rights, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Higher Education, Philippine Economic Zone Authority, National Food Authority, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, National Telecommunications Commission, Home Development Mutual Fund, and Bureau of Treasury.

At the turn of the millennium, women directors also started emerging as officers of the Cordillera Association of Regional Executives (CARE). The association was organized in 1988 to lead in the attainment of goals and programs of government and in building alliances, fostering professional growth, enhancing harmonious relationship, promoting membership development, and espousing social responsibility.

CARE is presently led by DBM Director Fangsilat, the fourth woman president after former DILG Director Everdina Echalar-Doctor, Popcom Director Quiray, and DOT Director Molintas.

At the level of local government, elected female officials are underrepresented but they are inching their way in. In the 2010 elections, two women candidates were elected by their constituents as their representatives in Congress: Rep. Maria Jocelyn Bernos of Abra and Rep. Eleanor Begtang of Apayao.

There are eight elected women board members of the 50 positions while 10 of the 76 towns in the region have lady mayors. Unfortunately, this time there was no woman candidate elected to the post of governor and vice governor in all the six provinces in CAR.

In the past, two Cordillera women were elected to Congress: Rep. Josephine Dominguez of Mountain Province and Rep. Cecilia Luna of Abra, but on separate terms.

In the meantime, government continues to push for gender mainstreaming to ensure that women become visible in government policies and actions which, according to Civil Service Commission Chair Francisco Duque III, is considered an important aspect of good governance.

The active role of women in governance could very well be a manifestation of how far gender mainstreaming is observed in our country.

A country study published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress by the US Department of the Army between 1986 and 1998 showed that "women in the Philippines have always enjoyed greater equality in society than in other parts of Southeast Asia."

The study showed a description and analysis of the country or region’s historical setting, geography, society, economy, political system, and foreign policy in 111 countries.

The research on the Philippines showed that "since the pre-Spanish times, Filipinos have traced kinship bilaterally. A woman’s rights to legal equality and to inherit family property have not been questioned. Education and literacy levels in 1990 were higher for women than for men.’

The late president Aquino often is given as an example of what women can accomplish in Philippine society, the study stated, adding "the appearance of women in important positions is not new or even unusual in the Philippines."

It cited that in the early 1990s women were found in more than a proportionate share of many professions although they predominated in domestic service (91 percent), professional and technical positions (59.4 percent), and sales (57.9 percent).

Philippine laws also spell out gender equality as the 1987 Constitution specified an equal rights clause regardless of gender, among other qualifications.

The Philippines is also a signatory to several international declarations and the treaties governing equal treatment of women in society.

In consonance with the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Philippine government under the second Filipino woman president Gloria Arroyo signed Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women.

RA 9710 caps the eighth year of the continuing quest for gender equality and women empowerment since the filing of the bill in Congress 70 years since the suffrage movement in the 1920s, which allowed Filipino women to vote in 1937, said Teresita Salud, deputy executive director Philippine Commission on Women and head of the Gender and Development Focal Point of the Department of Budget and Management, in a research paper.

"It may have been a long and challenging quest for gender equality and women’s empowerment. But it clearly demonstrates the effective dynamics of a responsive Philippine leadership and forceful but peaceful influence of individual and group stakeholders in Philippine government decision-making. It was indeed a historical and momentous victory for both the leadership and various stakeholders. It was also a decisive victory for Filipino women, who like many other women elsewhere around the world, have been marginalized in different degrees of gravity, in terms of gender equality and empowerment," Salud added in the same paper.

Salud said RA 9710 highlights the government’s 15 years of dedicated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and translates into a national law the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly.

RA 9710 guarantees recognition and respect of the rights of women. These rights include: protection from all forms of violence, including those committed by the State and protection and security in times of disaster, calamities, and other crisis situations.

Also guaranteed are participation and representation, equal treatment before the law, equal access and elimination of discrimination against women in education, scholarships, and training, equal participation in sports, non-discrimination in employment in the field of military, police, and other similar services. The Constitution also upholds non-discriminatory and non-derogatory portrayal of women in media and films, provision of comprehensive health services and health information and education, leave benefits, and equal rights in all matters related to marriage and family relations.

The Magna Carta of Women also guarantees the civil, political, and economic rights of women in the marginalized sector. – with reports from BMC staff
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