No End in Sight to Violence, Poverty and Deprivation Afflicting Filipino Women

How could the government ensure the protection of women? Despite several laws that were passed, the number of victims is still rising. The GWP believes that the dire situation of women in society is reflective of the pervasive thinking that women are mere objects that can be abused for men’s and society’s gratification. This situation of women, Gabriela and GWP said, reflects an existing unequal power relations between men and women and the inequities in the prevailing socio-economic structure in many countries such as the Philippines.

The Struggle for a Comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill

Another issue affecting Filipino women is the sore lack of reproductive health services. Gabriela and GWP find it unfortunate that the debate over the proposed reproductive health bill centers around the issue of population control, with the Aquino government and the Catholic Church currently in lock horns over the issue.

With Gabriela Women’s Party’s (GWP) own Comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill or HB 3378 , family planning is merely one aspect. Most provisions are dedicated to providing comprehensive reproductive health services and education to women. “HB 3387 focuses on making reproductive health care services accessible to the poor as well as granting privileges to women workers to ensure their reproductive health,” the GWP said in a statement.

According to the 2008 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report on the Philippines, at least 230 Filipino women die for every 100,000 live births, compared to only six in Japan, 14 in South Korea and in Singapore. The top four causes of maternal deaths, also according to the UNFPA, are; severe bleeding (mostly bleeding postpartum), infections (mostly soon after deliveries), hypertensive disorders in pregnancy (eclampsia) and obstructed labor. Poor health during pregnancy and lack of adequate care also cause the death of many poor women according to Gabriela.

According to GWP, out of the 19.4 million Filipino women of childbearing age in 2006, 8.9 percent or 1.73 million women did not have access to antenatal care from skilled birth attendants.

Clarita Padilla, a lawyer and the executive director of Engender Rights said only 44 percent of births occur in health facilities and only 62 percent of births are assisted by a health professional. Data from the Center for Women’s Resources showed that only 25 percent of poor pregnant women have access to professional attention from a doctor, nurse, midwife and other health professionals during delivery.

CCTP, PPPs, and Deprivation of Basic Social Services

In Aquino’s first State of the Nation Address (Sona), he declared that a major thrust of his administration is to enter into public-private partnerships (PPPs). This, according to Gabriela, is no different from the thrust of privatizing the provision of basic services and utilities, which has been implemented by past administrations, including that of Cory Aquino, the current president’s mother. And the privatization of basic services and utilities has added to the burden of poor women who now have to contend with spikes in the rates of electricity, water, and prices of oil products, health care, education, among others. This has worsened the poverty situation in the country. Ibon Foundation said the PPPs would also worsen the country’s debt problem.

To address poverty, the Aquino administration unveiled its Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCTP), which is merely a continuation of the same program implemented by the previous Arroyo administration.

In September the the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a loan for the government’s conditional cash transfer program. Through the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, a maximum amount of P1,400.00 ($32.55) per month would be distributed to a select group of poor families. According to Lana Linaban, secretary general of Gabriela, “CCTP like all other measures that do not resolve the root cause of poverty, is a palliative solution that gives only brief, temporary relief.”

Likewise, the money that would be utilized for the CCTP to supposedly alleviate poverty would only put the country into much deeper crisis, said Ibon Foundation. The money to be distributed to poor families is also loaned from financial institutions. Gabriela agreed saying that, “The money that would be spent on the CCTP would add to the national debt and would also incur interest. Meanwhile, the debilitating conditions that paralyze the poor remain: landlessness, absence of gainful employment, lack of basic social services.”

The impact of the government’s thrusts of engaging in PPPs and implementing the CCTP could be seen in the recently-approved 2011 national budget. The budget allocation for basic social services such as health decreased from P398.9 billion ($9.065 billion) in 2010 to P361.1 billion ($8.2 billion) in 2011. The budget for housing would have a minimal increase. The budget for education was increased by P31.1 billion ($704.5 million) to P271.1 billion ($6.161 billion), but the budget for State Colleges and Universities was slashed by P1.1 billion ($24.5 million). Aside from the budget for Defense, only the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development would have a substantial increase, mainly because of the CCTP.

These policies and misappropriation of budget on social services, said Gabriela, would be an added burden to women who are mothers of students whose only hope of finishing a degree hinges on being able to study in a state university; the mothers who thought that the CCTP would help her but later on would put her family in a much deeper crisis; and the mothers who would be deprived of the already lacking health services. (

Women’s Legal Bureau

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  1. Yiyi a rebuff: No, I can not put your money to fill the inside. Speaking of money but a lot of cool Yiyi, it is probably her superwoman psychology at work.

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