The past 30 years have seen two female Philippine Presidents and one female Vice President. Now, we are on the verge of seeing two women possibly occupying the two highest elective positions in the lands at the same time, as Senator Serge Osmeña III has pointed out.
This is not a far-fetched possibility, especially with the recent survey numbers of Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares and Rep. Leni Robredo. Llamanzares has had consistently strong numbers for some time. But it’s a different case for Robredo. Her numbers started at something like 1% to 4% when her vice presidential candidacy was announced but are now in the 20s.
The frontrunners in the Vice Presidential race – Senators Chiz Escudero and Bongbong Marcos – are now within striking distance of Robredo. Buoyed by the dramatic leap in her numbers, she now exhibits great confidence that she can, indeed, beat her two male rivals.
There is still a lot of work to be done but Robredo and her volunteers – both women and men – now have good reason to be more than hopeful.
A vote of women
Election after election, and for most of its history, the leadership of the country have been occupied predominantly by men. Unknown to many, however, female voters have consistently outnumbered male voters, although by slim margins.
For what it may imply however, this development becomes important not only for the Bicolana lawmaker herself but for the country as a whole. Because over and above this demographic fact is the stark reality that the Philippines, regrettably, has not been able to maximize the positive potentials of having more female leaders.
It must be made clear though, that this is not a battle of the sexes. This is simply pushing forward and recognizing the need to harness the energy, the boundless patience and the innate creativity of women in the national quest for genuine societal change. And for deeper commitment by the government to engage more women in positions of leadership.
Relevant to this, what do the strong numbers of Llamanzares and Robredo’s rise in the surveys suggest? At the very least, they indicate that a greater number of women now recognize that it’s time for them to be even more actively involved in both politics and in the search for meaningful and lasting changes in their communities.
It may also be asked: didn’t this already exist with the two past female Presidents? No. At least not in the context that people may have wanted, or expected. The fact is that our two female former Chief Executives both came from very influential and affluent families. Both of them also came from very political backgrounds.
On the other hand, Llamanzares, and especially Robredo are different. Robredo not only carries degrees in law and economics, she has also championed the rights of women in her province and worked towards community development – even before she entered public office!
This aspect of her past may be the reason for her recent strong standing. She has been able to show that political pedigree or one’s money does not determine one’s strength in the polls. This can also mean that the Filipina voter now puts more importance in what a person has already done and continues to do. Politicians usually like to talk about what they want, or plan to do. In Robredo’s case, she talks about what she’s already done.
It is reassuring therefore, that Robredo has actually been making her own contributions in this regard especially in her capacity as a lawyer. It also seems that people are looking for a new face in public service, for somebody with no background involved in a past marked with violence or corruption and thievery; or one with no record of jumping to the other side of the political fence for political expediency. They want an authentic, honest to goodness public servant who will do exactly that – serve. Less of the politicking; just concrete and genuine action.
Who do we see?
There was this photo of her waiting, alone, for a bus to her home province. It earned positive notice among a lot of people. This contrasted sharply from the image of the typical Philippine politician – riding in an expensive car, clad in expensive clothes, laden with jewelry and accompanied by a retinue of bodyguards.
This is something that the current electorate seems to be looking for in a candidate – simple, humble, unassuming. Possibly also capturing a positive public perception for her is her statement that she has no intention of pursuing the Presidency unlike her two main rivals – Marcos and Escudero. She just wants to focus on the job of a Vice President and put all her energy into it.
Robredo actually tried to stay out of the limelight, opting instead to defend the rights of women and the marginalized in the courtroom even as her husband gained national prominence for his style of responsive governance. She adopted a low profile while pushing for greater women’s empowerment, through such means as having their own means of livelihood to achieve financial independence.
She is one credible, indisputable argument for having more women in positions of power in the government.