“How can women expect that the exploitation of women workers will be addressed by these men who are aspiring to be elected government leaders, when they themselves are exploiters of women?”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Still seething over the Liberal Party’s “oath-taking cum stag party” in Laguna last week, members of the women’s group Gabriela vowed to campaign against traditional politicians who use women for entertainment in their political campaigns.
“There are 4Gs that were used by politicians during elections – goons, guns, gold and girls. And it is the girls that were first used and victimized by this opening salvo of the Liberal Party,” said Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan, in a press conference on Oct. 4, held after the Gabriela congress.
An oath-taking by Liberal Party members and birthday party celebration for Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao was highlighted by the sexy dance number of three women called “Playgirls,” who also hosted “parlour games” in which several male guests were asked to simulate sexual positions with the women.
Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador said the lewd show scandal is an indication of how traditional political parties, such as the LP, will conduct its campaign for the 2016 elections. Women cannot expect that issues relevant to their lives, such as worsening poverty and violence against women, will be properly discussed or addressed, she said.
More issues that afflict women
Salvador said that political parties should pay attention to many issues that afflict women, instead of using them as entertainment. Instead, the Liberal Party (LP), the ruling political party, downplayed the dignity of women.
Nonie Entena of the Gabriela-Southern Tagalog said many women are being exploited as contractual labourers and only receive meagre wages, without benefits and job security.
“How can women expect that the exploitation of women workers will be addressed by these men who are aspiring to be elected government leaders, when they themselves are exploiters of women?” she said.
Mary Ann Sapar of Gabriela-Davao said in Mindanao, several Lumad are suffering from hunger and intense militarization. There were also cases of rape by the soldiers encamped in villages. Like LP, she said, these soldiers are viewing women as mere “parausan” (sex objects).
Atel Hijos of Gabriela-Caraga also that the resources of the Motherland are exploited by mining companies and plantations that plunder the environment for profit. She said this has pushed massive militarization in Mindanao, especially in Caraga region where there are 23 mining companies operating.
Betty Belen of Innabuyog-Gabriela said that the LP members should be held accountable for undermining women. She said in the Cordillera, the indigenous people have high respect for women as they give birth to the children of next generation. “If a woman is disrespected, it will be the cause of tribal war. That is how respected the women is in our region. That is why this incident is very unacceptable. They should be punished,” said Belen.
Salvador urged politicians – from the village level up to the national level to discuss the issues of women in their campaigns. “They would deserve our votes based on how they stand on these issues, and not through lewd performances using women,” said Salvador.
Ilagan said they are preparing a complaint against Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino and Laguna Rep. Bejamin Agarao to be filed before the Ombudsman.
She cited a provision in the Magna Carta of Women and Women in Nation Building Act that requires government employees to undergo gender sensitivity training. In this case, she said, Tolentino has been insensitive.
Tolentino had denied that he hired the “Playgirls, a claim echoed by Agarao, who apologized for the show, at the same time, defended it, saying it was not offensive to “a man” like him.
Ilagan said women should not be objectified nor given as “gifts,” citing the heinous Sarmenta-Gomez rape and double murder case of University of the Philippines-Los Baños students, Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. Sarmenta, a candidate to a campus beauty contest, and her boyfriend Gomez were abducted and later found dead. Sarmenta was reportedly presented as gift to then Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted of the rape-slay.
“We are going back to the old ways of objectifying women as ‘gifts.’ Saan ka nakakita na ang nireregalo ay sa katauhan ng isang tao? That is how low they treat women,”
Focus on the track record
Ilagan said the Gabriela Women’s Party has been pushing for “politics of change,” as they ask voters to look into candidates’ track records, not on the entertainment they provide.
“Let us look on what they have done, what policies they have, are they pro-women, pro-people? Let us not be swayed by the traditional politicians’ traditional ways of conducting campaigns. Let us not be drowned by their entertainment and forget the basic issues that they should address,” said Ilagan.
Salvador also called on all political aspirants for the 2016 elections not to emulate what the LP has done. She urged political aspirants to elevate the quality of discussion during elections and not limit it to mere “entertainment” that exploits women.