by Imelda Abaño
On May 14, 2007, as the Philippines is scheduled for national elections.
For this year's general mid-term elections, 87,000 candidates are running for 17,000 national and local positions, which include all of the 250 seats in the House of Representatives and half of the 24 Senate seats. All of course are wooing the women's votes as half of the estimated 40 million voters are women.
In short, the absence of the women's votes is really a big factor considering that there are more women registered voters than men and considering that there is always a higher female voters' turnout than the male counterpart.
It was 70 years ago when over 400,000 women in the Philippines voted for the first time in an election that eventually paved the way for their participation in government.
Since then Filipino women have always been an important electoral force.
The first woman Senator of the Philippines was elected in April 30, 1937, when women from all over the country numbering to 447,725 voted for her in the 1939 elections.
What followed was a colorful history of women's ventures into the various levels of electoral victories, highlighted by the emerging of two women presidents in the person of former President Corazon Aquino and current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In a study recently released this year by the United Nations' children's agency, UNICEF, women continue to be under-represented in electoral politics.
The study showed that women account for small proportions of almost all national legislatures, occupying only 17 percent of parliamentary seats. At least 10 countries have no women parliamentarians at all, and in more than 40 others, women account for less than 10 percent of legislators.
Women in politics have been especially effective advocates for children at all levels, sponsoring legislation and fostering tangible changes that reflect the rights, priorities, experiences and contributions of women, children and families, the report said .
In the Philippine setting, most of the women involved in Philippine politics come from the political ruling elite and many take over seats vacated by their husbands or fathers. So it remains traditional and personality oriented.
For instance, Corazon Aquino, the country's first woman president, was the wife of assassinated senator Ninoy Aquino.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippine President today, is a former senator and a daughter of a former President of the Philippines.
Among this year’s senatorial candidates, there are only four women vying for the position. Two are former senators and the other is a wife of a former senator.
So with this coming election, none other than the Philippine President Arroyo called on Filipino women not to take their rights for granted.
She encouraged the women not to waste their right to participate in choosing leaders that could help improve the programs of government.
On the other hand, congresswoman Lisa Masa believes that most Filipino women still do not vote or select candidates based on their stand on issues that affect women and their children.
Women's voices must be heard in the articulation and pursuit of a social change agenda and to push for the needs and interests of women and children, the congresswoman said.