PCW Launches Agenda ni Juana: Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda for the 19th Congress

Agenda Ni Juana: Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves, Executive Director of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) (center, left), and Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, Chairperson of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality (center, right) led the launching of the Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda for the 19th Congress held at La Breza Hotel, Diliman, Quezon City on November 09, 2022. Also present were (from right to left) Atty. Samantha Louise Alfonso, Assistant Secretary, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office; Gabriela Party-list Representative Arlene Brosas, House Assistant Minority Floor Leader; Deputy Executive Director for Operations Maria Kristine Josefina Balmes, PCW; and Ms. Anita Baleda, Chief, Policy Development, Planning, and Monitoring and Evaluation Division, PCW.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) launched the Priority Legislative Agenda (WPLA) for the 19th Congress in a ceremony held on November 09, 2022, at La Breza Hotel, Quezon City.

The Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda is a set of proposed legislative measures that seek to protect and promote women’s rights and empowerment either through the enactment of new laws or the amendment or repeal of discriminatory provisions in existing ones. 

Among the close to 200 guests were  Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman who heads the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality (CWGE), Assistant Minority Floor Leader and Gabriela Party-list Representative Arlene Brosas, Assistant Secretary Samantha Louise Alfonso of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), Atty. Cathleen Cagaanan-Leratas of the  International Development Law Organization (IDLO) Philippines, legislative staff of Congress, as well as representatives from national and local government, international organizations, and civil society and non-government organizations. 

PCW Executive Director Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves extended her gratitude to guests and stakeholders present during the event.

“We hope that this launch will mark the start of our collaboration to work collectively as agents of change, by moving towards updating existing discriminatory laws to shed off gender discriminatory provisions, and to push for the development of laws that will further support, protect, and promote the rights of every Filipina woman and child.” Atty. Yuzon-Chaves said.

The policy recommendations under the WPLA resulted from consultations with representatives from the non-government organizations (NGO) and civil society organization (CSO) partners, legislative committees, and concerned government agencies, conducted by the PCW in 2021 to 2022. These include the following:

  1. Ensuring Women’s Equal Rights in Marriage and Family Relations: Amending Articles 14, 96, 124, 211 and 225 of the Family Code of the Philippines
  2. Amending Article 55 of the Family Code to Include All Forms of Violence as Defined in RA 9262, as Ground for Legal Separation
  3. Reinstituting Divorce in the Philippines
  4. Strengthening the Provisions of RA No. 8353 (Amending the Anti Rape Law
  5. Amending the Discriminatory Provisions of Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code
  6. Eliminating Gender Bias in Adultery and Concubinage (Amending Articles 333 and 344, Repealing Article 334 of the Revised Penal Code)
  7. Enacting a SOGIE Equality Act
  8. Enacting a Law Upholding the Rights of Women Deprived of Liberty (new proposal)
  9. Enacting a Women’s Political Participation and Representation Law
  10. Enacting Magna Carta of Workers in the Informal Economy
  11. Amending the Safe Spaces Act Providing Penalties for GBSH in the Workplace, Educational and Training Institutions (new proposal) 

Milestones from previous Congress

Tayo pa ba? Laban lang! PCW Executive Director Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves expressed her high hopes for a collaborative effort of all stakeholders in moving forward the legislative measures included in the WPLA for the 19th Congress

Emphasizing the PCW’s mandate as a policymaking and oversight agency, Atty. Yuzon-Chaves said that the WPLA contain recommendations to ensure that the country fulfills its State commitments under international treaties, which include the obligation to amend and repeal discriminatory provisions of existing laws, and to advocate for the formulation and adoption of new laws that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE).”

She said that among the landmark laws that we have are the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710), which is the translation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) into a national legislation, the Women in Development and Nation Building Act (RA 7192), and more recently, the Safe Spaces Act (RA 11313).

Atty. Yuzon-Chaves shared that during the 18th Congress, two WPLA-related bills were signed into law. The Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 11648) amended the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 by raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old in order to protect the minors from rape and other forms of sexual abuse. Meanwhile, the 2022 amendment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 11862) included the repeal of Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code, thereby decriminalizing persons exploited in prostitution. 

She added that three women and gender-related bills supported by PCW were also signed into law during the previous Congress: Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage (RA 11596), the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act that guarantees additional benefits for solo parents and their children (Republic Act 11861), and the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law (RA 11930).

The PCW Executive Director noted that despite these legislative successes, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. She assured that PCW will continue to work with both chambers of Congress, NGAs, NGOs and CSOs, and international organizations to have these WPLA enacted into laws.

Message from the House Speaker

In his message read by Representative Roman, House of Representatives Speaker Martin Ferdinand G. Romualdez  highlighted the importance of the partnership with PCW and other stakeholders in the promotion and protection of the welfare and rights of Filipino Women despite the existing patriarchal strata. “Three out of nine Deputy Speakers, or one-third, are women. Currently, there are 81 women lawmakers in the House of Representatives, comprising around a third of the entire chamber… Together they constitute a formidable bloc that can exert a significant influence on the fate of a particular measure or resolution”, the message said.

The Speaker’s message likewise noted that on the first 23 days of their sessions, 24 bills that promote women’s rights, gender equality, and the protection of women have been filed.

Commitment from Congress and the PLLO

Both chambers of Congress, the Senate, and the House of Representatives expressed their commitment to move forward the WPLA to legislative discussions.

“We are here to legislate for the present life and not the afterlife.” Chairperson of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality and Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman expressed the support of the House of Representatives to the WPLA

CWGE Chairperson Geraldine Roman highlighted the importance of communication among different members of society to effectively legislate laws that could benefit the people in their present situation.

“We are fighting for women’s rights as well as gender equality; and what we want is basically an inclusive society, where all Filipinos, women to begin with, members of the LGBT community, indigenous peoples, people with disability, senior citizens, and other marginalized sectors will have a better chance of obtaining happiness in this life, ” Representative Roman said.

“As legislators, it is our sacred duty to ensure that all Filipinos will have equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal protection under the law. It is for this reason, that the PCW can count on our Committee, as well as my fellow legislators in Congress,” Representative Roman concluded.

Assistant Minority Floor Leader Representative Arlene Brosas shared that Gabriela Women’s Partyhas filed nine (9) pro-women and pro-LGBTQIA+ bills, and is committed to support the WPLA.

She added that effective and inclusive legislative measures should consider the rising number of gender-based violence against women and children, economic crisis, and online sexual exploitation,  and address them to make society safe for all genders.

House Assistant Minority Floor Leader and Gabriela Party-list Representative Arlene Brosas the importance of all-sectors involvement in solving crises on gender-based violence, discrimination, abuse, and discrimination through effective and unified legislative actions

“Indeed, as advocates, there is a need to unite and strengthen our campaign for genuine change as the women’s sector continues to bear the brunt of the intensifying economic crisis…Marami na tayong napagtagumpayan, kaya’t marapat lamang na ipagpatuloy natin ang paglaban para sa mga batas na nagsusulong ng karapatan ng kababaihan at bata… Gabriela Women’s Party will fight alongside fellow lawmakers, advocates, and women’s rights organizations in pushing for genuine reforms to improve the lives of the marginalized sectors in our society,” Brosas said.

In a recorded video speech, Senate Committee on Women and Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality Chairperson Senator Risa Hontiveros stressed the importance of synergized effort between law enforcers and private sector to stop online sexual abuse and exploitation

Meanwhile, Senate Committee on Women and Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality Chairperson Senator Risa Hontiveros, the principal author of RA 11930 emphasized the importance of synergizing processes between the private sector and our law enforcers, in combating online abuse and exploitation.

“We have to be ten steps ahead of them, and I know this is possible only if we could commit to do all we can, with the best we can muster for this cause. It will not be easy, but as I always say, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy when we are able to safeguard the dignity, the lives, and the future of our children, and our women. We also create a safer and kinder space for all”, Hontiveros said.

In her speech, Assistant Secretary Samantha Louise Alfonso, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), assured the commitment of the Executive Department in passing these measures once approved/resolved in the halls of both Houses of Congress.

Speaking on behalf of the PLLO, Assistant Secretary Samantha Louise Alfonso expressed their office’s full commitment in ensuring the immediate approval of the proposed bills once they are approved/resolved in the halls of both chambers of the Philippine Congress.

“This priority agenda also amplifies the voices of women and other genders towards creating a society of genuine empowerment and representation in our political, social, and economic realms,” said Assistant Secretary Alfonso.

“As women in public service, kaisa po ninyo ako at ang buong PLLO sa pagpapasa ng mga makabuluhang batas para protektahan at iaangat ang karapatan ng bawat kababaihang Pilipino. Let us all work together towards our shared vision,”  Alfonso concluded.

Ceremonial Pinning

As the symbol of all participants’ commitment to passing the legislative agenda, a ceremonial pinning of the women’s symbol was held to show that all societal efforts are all for the bills to pass, with the hope of making society nurturing for women and girls to be empowered, and a safe and inclusive environment for all genders.

ALL-IN SOCIETAL SUPPORT FOR WPLA : Guests from various organizations, sectors, and marginalized groups show their full commitment and support during the launch of the Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda for the 19th Congress held at La Breza Hotel, Diliman Quezon City on November 09, 2022