The pre-2016 elections period may be the most monitored in terms of controversies and black propaganda, and marred with malevolence and gendered discourses. Mind you the May 9, 2016 elections may turn to be the most awaited, legendary and historic.

Gender issues are flooding the 2016 elections’ campaign trail. These are well covered by social and tri-media. No elections in the past could surpass this scenario.

For one, there are two female candidates in the presidential posts.  There is one vice-presidential aspirant. Observations would tell that there has not been deliberate attempt from these women to craft their own set of national women agenda.

Let us proceed with a male aspirant, the lone candidate from Mindanao, Southern Philippines have a solid 22 years of local government credential.

It used to be a practice in the City of Davao, after the 1986 People Power that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, that organized women took the cudgel of making women visible in elections. Thus, the 1988 elections paved the way for the women to generate interest in working out their own electoral agenda. The process created a venue for women to articulate their sentiments and consolidated their action points. These action points crafted to become an electoral agenda of women for adoption of local candidates.

Interestingly, the first local mayoralty candidate who became the first women’s “client” was Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Since then, local elections in the city serve as one of the spaces for women to advance their interest and be counted in the electoral process. As a way of recall with pride and honour, myself being a founding member-co-convenor of Gabriela-Mindanao, this bunch of women initiating “Boto ng Kababaihan” (Women’s Vote) served the agenda as Gabriela-Mindanao’s platform for consideration of local candidates.

Finding ways to share women’s perspective is a trade mark of women who have gone through a conscientization, understanding their conditions and their roles and tasks in transforming the society.

Against this backdrop, it is just fitting for women to sustain the efforts and make a dent in this year’s national and local elections. In a context that the person who was the first “client” to buy women’s platform from women’s articulation is the same person who is now fielded as presidential candidate sans his reluctance.

It is in this light, of appreciating political platforms that I am in a situation to further recall how I got involved in mainstreaming gender and the articulation of women question through legislation under Duterte’s administration in 1996, after decades of lobbying women’s agenda. Fairly, The Women Development Code of Davao City (1997) receives many accolades when talking about gender mainstreaming and women empowerment being a landmark local ordinance.

It is a fact that this policy instrument is a product of women’s struggle since the Boto ng Kababaihan was launched. Yet it is highly fitting to recognize that stakeholders had a say in the policy formulation.

As a policy material on women’s development, regulating gender asymmetry and genderization of local governance, various groups, including all-women socio-civic and faith-based organizations were consulted, thereby making it as a source of a comprehensive response to the needs and the rights affirmation of women.

Being in the entire process of coming up with a legislation, from the study phase (social investigation into conditions of women in the city), transforming issues to legislative provisions to formulation of implementing rules and guidelines as the lead consultant appointed by the Chairperson of the Committee on Women, Children and Family Relations of the City Council of Davao in 1996, Councilor Nenita R. Orcullo), I became witness to the level of participation and commitment of the duty bearers, most especially, the city councilors and the chief executive himself, Mayor Duterte.

It should be on the record that locally legislating women’s agenda was initiated by a Gabriela, Nenita R. Orcullo, who was elected as a 3rdDistrict Councilor of Davao City. Orcullo was the former Secretary-General of Gabriela Mindanao (1987-1991).

Indeed, the trailblazing women’s movement in Davao City contributes to the healthy discourse on gender-specific concerns, even as the Mayor has the penchant to be sexist. The battle is won over the needs and welfare rights locally, but the cultural apparatus pivoted on the economic and political systems, obtaining in the society requires decades of unlearning and learning. All these forms of discrimination: abuses, including the commodification of women form part of the feudal-patriarchal mindset derived from colonialism and capitalism brought to Philippine soil. These are ingrained in the system that complicates the status and position of today’s Filipino women.

Suffice it to say, the reality points to the fact that the majority women in poverty groups are the most vulnerable and fall preys to the machination of the ruling elite (with women of this stratum), making them gender-blind to the point of silencing. They have to rise in greater number and act with the rest of the exploited and oppressed beyond the 2016 elections!

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