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Beyond Beijing: Taking Root and Gaining Ground

Asia Pacific Development Centre - Gender and Development Programme (GAD-APDC)
1998; 260p.

This report is based on the proceedings of the Legislative Symposium on the government's implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action held on September 29, 1997, Philippines. The Committee on Women, House of Representatives and the Philippine NGO Beijing Score Board co-organized the symposium. The Committee on Women has the mandate to conduct congressional oversight on the implementation of laws and international instruments affecting the conditions of the Filipino women. The Philippine NGO Beijing Score Board is the main NGO network working with the government to monitor the implementation of the Platform for Action. During the Legislative Symposium, the report of the government was presented by Aurora Javate de Dios of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women who is also the Philippine representative to CEDAW.

Philippines: Specific Commitments Made at Beijing

Basic Indicators

Maternal Mortality: 250 (per 100,000 live births)

Female Literacy: 37.0%

Female Labour Force Participation: 93.9%

Female Political Participation (seats held in parliament): 11.5%

International Instruments Signed or Ratified

Overview of 1995-96 Accomplishments

While we were in Beijing two years ago, we had anticipated the extent of work that we would have to face in transforming the output of the Conference - from a document of principles, intentions and strategies, to meaningful improvements in the lives of our women. We were aware of the vital roles that all sectors needed to play. But responsibilities were expectedly focused mainly on the government, it being the single largest institution endowed with powers and resources to get the Beijing Platform for Action (PFA) implemented.

How has the government fared in meeting its responsibilities? Not so glowingly, I guess you would tell me. For up to now, there are still specific commitments in which no actions are being taken. But on the other hand, the picture is not that bleak either. So far, our government has been steadfast in getting the mechanisms for the PFA implementation in place. Right after the Conference, for instance, three highly strategic measures were quickly drawn-up to build the foundation of the Platform's implementation. Allow me to recall them as a way of contextualising my presentation.

First, through Executive Order 273, the government adopted the Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development (PPGD) 1995-2025, a 30-year plan which is now our main mechanism for implementing the Beijing Platform for Action. Today, it serves as the "bible" that guides agencies in translating the global perspectives of the Platform into programmes and strategies that befit national realities and situations. Second, under Section 27 of the 1996 General Appropriation Act, all government agencies were directed to allocate a minimum of 5% of their total budget for women-related programmes, and projects. And third, the national women's machinery was strengthened by expanding its board to include ten key line departments, increasing its technical and administrative positions and by providing additional funds for its organisational expansion.

The frame of reference, the resources and the national machinery are all vital ingredients that helped to cement the foundation of the Platform's implementation. With this encouraging beginning, how did we fare in the second year?

Highlights of 1997 Accomplishments

The Gender and Development (GAD) Budget

A positive gain in 1997 was the retention of Section 28 in the 1997 General Appropriation Act (GAA), thanks to all of you who lobbied and supported our advocacy. This provision, which allocates a minimum of 5% of agency total budget to women-related undertakings, has become an effective driving force for agencies to consider GAD.

The total number of agencies that submitted reports this year in 50. This is an improvement from the 1995 and 1996 figures which were 23 and 15, respectively. However, the number of agencies that have a GAD budget is only 39. Eleven of the agencies with reports said that they do not have a GAD budget for various reasons. The 1995 and 1996 figures of agencies with a GAD budget were 19 and 15 respectively. Expectedly, the reported GAD budget figures also went up. From Peso 990.8 million in 1995 to Peso 1.5 billion in 1996 and Peso 4.9 billion in 1997. This year, 14 agencies were able to meet the minimum requirement of 5% of the total budget. The top three agencies with the biggest amount of GAD budgets during the three years in point are:




During the 3-year period, 8 departments were consistent in the submission of reports. These are: DA, DENR, DTI, DOT, DSWD, DOH, DPWH, and DOTC. The GAD budgets are allocated for institution building and programmes and projects that are either women-specific or gender responsive. Generally, the performance is still low, especially because the above figures are but a fragment of the total number of agencies in the bureaucracy and of the government's budget in general. But a number of agencies, as well as their programmes, reportedly benefit from it. Deleting this provision therefore from the forthcoming GAA will not solve the problem of low compliance but would even product an adverse impact on the agencies who have started to use it productively.

Violence Against Women

Our long years of advocacy in the area of Violence Against Women (VAW) is finally gaining ground. In February, the President issued a Call to Action Against Domestic Violence, directing government heads to: (a) take personal advocacy against domestic violence; (b) strengthen front-line services to victims; (c) educate the public on the issue; and (d) press for the adoption of a law against domestic violence.

The memorandum was disseminated nationwide through the various leagues of local executives. A consultation on the implementation of this directive was held in which participants from various government agencies refined their implementation strategies. Among the fresh initiatives cited in the agencies' report to the President were the:

  1. formation of an inter-agency task force on the development of a methodology for generating statistics on VAW;
  2. adoption of a fast-lane and one-interview system in the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI);
  3. centre and hospital-based assistance in victims; and
  4. counselling services, both for victims and offenders.

The Department of Interior and Local Government - Philippine National Police (PNP) also reported (as of January, 1997) that a total of 954 PNP women's desks were established in its police stations. This represents 49.49% of the 1,910 targeted PNP stations nationwide. A total of 4,722 cases on crimes against women were also reportedly handled by these desks. A campaign against all forms of VAW was promoted within the bureaucracy through the celebration of the 1997 Women's Month. National and local government agencies mobilised actions around the theme, "YES TO WOMEN'S HEALTH, NO TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN."

With the support of the Belgian government, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) participated in the implementation of a Pilot Project Against Trafficking in Women. The project provided training to organisations and agencies working in the areas of prostitution, trafficking and migration. It also conducted advocacy on women's rights, undertook research on the issues, produced and disseminated information and other advocacy materials, and provided legal advice, temporary shelter, counselling and medical assistance to victims.

Anti-rape Law

What may be the biggest gain for women this year, insofar as VAW is concerned, is the adoption of the Anti-rape Law. The law reclassified rape from a private to a public offense (or from being a crime against chastity to a crime against person); expanded the definition of rape; degenderised rape; and recognised the existence of marital rape.

The NCRFW is scheduling a consultation to draw up measures on how to get this law implemented, particularly in line with educating the public and the judiciary on its spirit and provisions. We recognise, and we regret, that we did not get everything we lobbied for.

Women and Poverty/Economy

As long as women are poor and marginalised in the economic mainstream, the road to equality will always be rough and thorny. It is for this reason that we wage our advocacy for the expansion of economic resources and opportunities to our women. Line departments, like the DSWD, DOLE, DA and DTI, and all members of NCRFW board, continue to initiate measure to enhance the entrepreneurial skills of women and enhance the capital assistance portfolio for women.

Helping poor women is one thing, but articulating women's perspectives in the macro level of economic discourses is another. Thus, in cooperation with NG)s and the academic community, the government organised a series of workshops aimed at drawing up a strategy framework for the positioning of women's concerns in the APEC agenda. The Conference entitled, Gender, Trade and Investment Liberalisation, and Economic and Technical Cooperation for Sustained Growth and Development came up with a Call to Action addressed to APEC leaders to, among others, recognise gender as a cross-cutting priority in all APEC discourses and activities. The Women Leaders' Network from APEC Economies met in Ottawa to promote the consistent implementation of the Call to Action throughout the APEC processes and structures.

Corollary to this is the building-up of alliances with women leaders who could sustain the advocacy in the business sector. DTI and the NCRFW held a series of meetings and for a, the most recent of which was the Women Business Leaders' Forum in May 1997. This forum gave birth to an organisation called Women's Business Council Philippines which is now lobbying with the Central Bank, Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines for stronger implementation of RA 7882, a law that seeks to assist women in micro and medium enterprises. The President issued two memoranda directing the DTI and NCRFW to provide technical and financial support in support of the organisation's ojectives.

Women and Power and Decision-making

While it is said that Filipino women enjoy a relatively better status, we know that this is not so, especially when we look at the representation of women in positions of decision making. Women seem to be perennially constrained by the proverbial "glass ceiling" above their heads and a floor that seems too sticky to let them move laterally or vertically. For example, available information on the distribution of women in the third level position over a period shows that women's representation in this level has been consistently low and any increase was remarkably erratic and turtle-paced.

Distribution of Women 3rd Level Position (1980-1996)

Year Percent (%)
1980 26.1
1983 33.0
1990 28.8
1991 30.0
1994 31.9
1995 27.0
1996 37.0

The Executive Branch therefore maintains a campaign to promote more women to decision making positions. A Presidential Memorandum is being proposed, as well as an accompanying framework to fast track the attainment of the targeted 40% representation of women in the third level by the year 1998. It will also provide fresh impetus to CAPWINGS, a programme designed to support the career advancement of women in government. A top level policy dialogue on gender equity is scheduled to be held to firm up the framework and reinvigorate the campaign.

The Party List Law, an instrument envisioned to strengthen the participation of basic sectors in the legislative processes, opens fresh opportunities for women to consolidate their political forces and agenda. The NCRFW is therefore lobbying with women's groups to begin strategising for a more active participation of women in the forthcoming political exercise. A poster will be disseminated nationwide through the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) field offices.

Strengthening of Institutional Mechanisms

The effort to strengthen the NCRFW last year was complemented by support from the Canadian Government. The NCRFW is implementing Phase II of the CIDA-NCRFW Institutional Strengthening Project which will build the capabilities of critical government bodies and administrative regions to catalyse the process of gender mainstreaming. The assistance will allow us to move down to local levels in the seven pilot regions.

Government offices are also in the process of assessing their implementation of GAD concerns in consonance with Memorandum Circular 97-01 issued recently by the NCRFW. These assessments will be consolidated and a workshop on National Plan Enhancement is to be held to, among others, tie-up the GAD budget with the agencies' GAD implementation plans and draw up mechanisms for coordination and monitoring of the implementation. These activities will enable us to publish a second year report on the implementation of the PFA.

Concluding Comments

On the whole, there are some gains in the second year of the PFA implementation. But, so much more remains to be done. The change is slow and hardly observable, but the point is: to carry on.

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