“We aspire for equal changes for women, we want to be free of the patriarchal society, we want a stop to violence against women, to the whammy of soaring prices, to the rape of the Motherland.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The only women’s partylist in the world is 15 years old and counting.
The Gabriela Women’s Partylist (GWP) celebrated their 15 years of struggle and service to marginalized women on Oct. 1 in Teatro Marikina. The venue was jam-packed with GWP members from different chapters in the Philippines. They were also joined by personalities such as Monique Wilson, satirist Mae Paner and musician Skarlet Brown of the ska band Pu3ska among others.
Senatorial aspirant and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares also graced the event and sang the AlDub theme song, “God gave me you,” even if he was losing his voice following the Makabayan convention the previous day.
Actress Angel Locsin, Boy Abunda, Bibeth Orteza and Bae Bibyaon Bigkay sent video messages congratulating the GWP for its 15 years of service to the people and thanked them for being steadfast in addressing issues not only of women but the whole Filipino people.
“Mahaba pa ang ating laban. As long as there are women and girls being molested, abused, raped, Gabriela will always be there to support. Thank you very much Gabriela for bringing the voices of women in Congress,” Abunda said in its video message.
The top three GWP nominees were announced at the convention: current GWP Rep. Emmi De Jesus, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Metro Manila and Bai Ali Indayla from Mindanao.
15 years of struggle
Former GWP Rep. Liza Maza together with the incumbent Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Luz Ilagan, narrated the struggles, success and challenges that they faced for 15 years.
Inside the male dominated halls of Congress, the GWP has pushed several bills for women’s welfare. In the 16th congress, the GWP has filed 33 bills and 74 resolutions and co-authored several other measures that seek to uphold marginalized women’s rights and welfare.
Among the bills that were passed into law were the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, Anti-violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 and the Magna Carta of Women
Gabriela Women’s Party also co-authored the controversial Comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill, which was passed as a consolidated bill.
The GWP also authored bills that push for the Philippine government’s compliance to the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). These include amendments to the Anti-Rape Law that will give further weight to the victim’s testimony and lack of consent, as well as the Sexual Harassment Act to include acts perpetrated not just by persons of authority but by peers.
The GWP also seeks to penalize electronic violence against women including the uploading of scandals, children’s pornography and cyber prostitution.
Kharlo Manano, secretary general of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concern said that GWP, as part of Makabayan bloc, is the only partylist that bring forth the issues not only of women but also their children. Aside from the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children act, GWP also pushes for the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
Together with the Makabayan coalition, the GWP was among those who have filed impeachment complaints against President Aquino.
The GWP also consistently and continues to fight for the national sovereignty as they also lead women in calling for the junking of Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
GWP has faced the harassment of its leaders, the filing of rebellion cases among the Batasan 6 that includes Maza under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, red-baiting and killing of its leaders.
This did not weaken the women’s party, which grew and continued the struggle for the welfare of the people, De Jesus said.
“We aspire for equal changes for women, we want to be free of the patriarchal society, we want a stop to violence against women, to the whammy of soaring prices, to the rape of the Motherland,” said the women lawmakers.
“We want to have regular jobs with living wages, land for the peasants, respect for human rights, not repression,” they said.
Maza called on GWP members: “Let us carry on, Gabrielas of our time, arouse, organize and mobilize. Let’s continue our work inside and outside Congress.”
Awarded actress and singer Monique Wilson said one of the proudest moments of her life was when she was elected as director for international affairs of the GWP.
She said she was embarrassed at first, since her life revolved around the showbiz and singing in the Philippines and abroad, she said she knew nothing of the real state of women in the Philippines. And so she asked her fellow Gabriela sisters to educate her and bring her to communities for her to see the condition of Filipino women and gain understanding of problems hounding them.
She said the One Billion Rising would never have happened without Gabriela as one of the driving forces, and the group and GWP were praised around the world for the campaign. She also said that many women lawmakers in other countries also commended GWP and had asked for her help to also build a women’s party in their respective countries. “So I told them to come here in the Philippines and meet our exemplary leaders of GWP,” she said.
She also shared that in a few months, she will be having a meeting in London where women parliamentarians formed a women’s party and want to model their party after the GWP.
Lana Linaban, secretary general of GWP, said that for 15 years, GWP has drawn lessons from the challenges they faced. She said at 15 years, the group is “still young” and there are many more that they and the women sector need to conquer.