PCW Statement on the 78th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in the Philippines

As we commemorate the 78th anniversary of the special plebiscite that gave Filipino women their right to vote, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) enjoins all women to have a meaningful participation in the electoral process as voters and candidates.

Extending the right to suffrage to Filipino women was settled in a national plebiscite on April 30, 1937. The condition was for at least 300,000 women to vote in favor of the motion. As it turned out, 447,725 (90%) voted yes.

While women’s suffrage is essential to a nation’s democracy, this cannot guarantee that women’s issues and concerns can be fully addressed, especially when men continue to outnumber women in leadership positions. There cannot be true democracy if almost half of the population is excluded from holding positions of power. Current statistics show that women hold 25% of seats in the Senate and 27% in the House of Representatives. At the local level, women comprise 22.5% of gubernatorial posts, 18.5% of vice gubernatorial posts and 20.86% of mayoralty posts.

As the 2016 National Elections is fast approaching, the PCW encourages women to believe in themselves and take on the challenge of leadership in different fields, including electoral politics. Politics is not just a man’s world. Women candidates are not to settle as mere shadows of fathers, husbands or alternatives to keep family dynasties in power. Competent and capable women are encouraged to run for office in their own right and occupy positions of power and decision-making.

The Commission also urges the Filipino people to vote for qualified and competent women leaders. Women’s participation in governance brings in women’s perspectives in public discourse thus, expands the scope of policies and programs to improve the lives of women and men, girls and boys in their communities.

As we call on women to step up, we are also calling on political parties and concerned agencies to institutionalize measures that encourage more women leaders to run for public office. The job doesn’t stop in opening up spaces for women; we need to create an enabling environment for women who are willing and ready to take on leadership roles to promote women’s human rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Lastly, we appeal to all Filipinos to become responsible voters. We can only move forward as a nation if we choose leaders wisely. Vote for candidates based on their qualifications and platforms that consider the real needs of the people. While the right to vote is a human right, it also gives us the power to change our destiny as a nation. Let us exercise our right and power freely and sensibly.