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The challenge for Filipino women is to enter the rarified environment of politics or to remain forever on the sidelines of policymaking and implementation (Burn 231). As justified in this quote by a woman Filipino politician, it is against the odds for a woman in the Philippines to be successful in politics. This is mainly due to the Filipino structure of patriarchy and oligarchy, and inferior value of women. In fact, the devaluation of women is so immense in the Philippines that a vast amount of people believed that a woman was not competent to run the country in a 1991 national survey (Silvestre 171). Apparently, this ideal does not encourage women to enter politics. Only twenty-one percent of elected government officials are women in the Philippines. Women also only make up twenty-five percent of ministerial positions. On a lower level, women make up eight percent of mayors (Seager). Only two women have managed to become president of the Philippines. First, Corazon Aquino defeated all of the odds against her and became president; then, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the fourteenth and current president of the Philippines. She was born on April 5th, 1947. She lived in Pampanga, a northern island of the Philippines until her father, Diosdado Macapagal was elected president in 1961. Then, she lived in the Malacanang Palace in Manila, which is where the president is housed. After she graduated high school, she attended Georgetown University. Then, after college graduation, she returned to her country. Here, she extended her education to get a master s in commerce and then in economics. With these degrees, she became a professor in the Philippines. In 1968, she married Jose Miguel Tuason Arroyo, with whom she had three children. After these children were grown, she ran a spot in the Philippine Senate. She won, which was an amazing
achievement for women s political status in her country. But she did not stop here. In 1998, she ran for vice president and won. She won with largest mandate in the history of presidential or vice presidential elections, which were thirteen million votes (Mangahas 1998). Finally, in 2001 she won the presidency (International Yearbook). She has remained president to this day, but in November 2009, she stated that she prefers to step down and run for Senate again (Inquirer Politics). Sadly, her father, the former president, did not get to see his daughter achieve her unbelievable political power due to his death in 1997. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had a greater chance of succeeding in political power compared to other women of the Philippines. As noted before, her father was president. Thus, she can be identified as a political surrogate. During his presidency, his father was a credible and favorite president among the Filipinos. With her father in office, she achieved a political pedigree which gave her early experience and exposure to politics. Thus, she had credit to her name as well as a sense of security among the many people of her nation which swayed countless election votes in her favor (Burn 232). In addition to her political surrogacy, it is believed that she excelled in the political world due to the Catholic Church. Being a Catholic like many Filipinos, the church supported her during her election. The church was also known to support women because the Catholic Church promotes the idea that women are morally superior to a man. Women have been taught to conform to the behaviors of their ideal mother, the Virgin Mary, upon whom is built a cult of feminine spiritual superiority, which teaches that women are semi-divine,
morally superior to and spiritually stronger than men (Stevens 91).Because of this superiority is endorsed by the majority religion of the nation, the church s word had credibility, influencing people to think that Arroyo was trustworthy and reliable; thus, she was a great candidate in many citizen s eyes. This sense of reliability and trustworthiness with Arroyo was the perfect ticket for the presidency due to previous political circumstances. The president before her, Joseph Estrada, was a corrupt head-of-state during his term. His acceptance of taking millions of dollars in bribes, tobacco tax kickbacks, and illegal gambling during his term was made public which lead to his impeachment. At this time, Senator Arroyo resigned from office adding further credibility to her name. When she ran for president, citizens also noted that when she ran for vice president, she was of the party that was against Estrada (Silvestre 173). In conclusion, running as a successor to a corrupt leader, having a woman s trustworthy moral image advocated by the church, and having a favorite president as a father created a flawless formula for Arroyo to achieve a strong advancement of political power which almost no woman in the Philippines could achieve. Arroyo identifies with the political party of the Lakas Kampi Christian Muslim Democrats. The party summarizes its beliefs of morals and strong religious values under article one section one of the party s constitution, The Party believes that God created man and vested him with dignity. The Party therefore upholds the value of human life and the inherent dignity and worth of every man. It guarantees full respect for the exercise of his civil, economic,
and political rights under a just and dynamic social order. Even though the party is strongly religious, it gives freedom of religious exercise to every man in its constitution under article one, section two. The party also states in section three that their main goals are good governance, globalization, people empowerment, sustainable development, social justice, subsidiary, and solidarity ( Constitution ). With her political party, Arroyo has a strong belief in the conservative church hierarchy, which she reflects through her presidency. In doing so, she has not been an advocator of women s issues. Rather, she has restricted their rights. This may seem to be a peculiar approach seeing that she is a woman herself. A first action during her presidency that limited women s rights was upholding the law excluding any unmarried woman to family planning services. Second, she kept the law that required hospitals to have the consent of the husband for sterilization procedures. Thus, a woman must submit to the husband to finalize the decisions regarding her own body. Next, she did not grant the government the need to educate people about contraceptive or HIV/AIDS. In doing so, she is upholding the church s idea of abstinence. In addition, she enacted the law that made abortions a crime in the Philippines through the Reproductive Healthcare Act. This is because of the pro-life Christian ideal which does not give the woman a choice of what to do with their body. Finally, she continued to hold prostitution legal (Austria). Perhaps she kept this law because it is good for the Philippine economy. The country uses prostitution to increase tourism, as well as economics at military bases. The rate is so vast in the past fifty years fifty-
thousand children were born to U.S military men from the military bases (Burn 35-36). Consequently to her conservative faith-based political party, limitations of women s rights were enforced during Arroyo s presidency. When Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office, her goal was to reform the country. She stated in her inaugural speech, Filipinos must improve moral standards in government and
society in order to provide a strong foundation for good governance (Arroyo inauguration speech 2001). With this promise, she increased her support with the people of the nation. In her first year, she elaborated on her statement. She identified her main goals as combating corruption, to reduce poverty, economic growth, and anti-terrorism. She planned to do so by abiding to her four rules of good governing, change the character of politics; reduce poverty; and leadership by example ( Oyamada, 82). Despite her strong goals of reform, the government failed to put her plans into full action. For instance, she worked to revise the constitution from a bicameral parliamentary system to unicameral parliamentary system through a form of constituent assembly. The difference between the two systems is that a bicameral has two branches, houses, or chambers, while a unicameral only has one ("Glossary: Government 101." ). Even though this plan was qualified and passable, the Supreme Court rejected the plan (Hutchcroft, 148). Arroyo s policies that did manage to pass resulted in worsening the problems of the government. For example, the enactment of additional corporate, excise, and value-added taxes actually ended up increasing the poverty population ( "The Philippines in 2006: , 7). In
addition, her attempt to reduce terrorism led her to join in the Iraq war, allying with the United States. The majority of the population ended up disapproving of the decision to enter the war (GM344). Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo s position as president is a true source of political power. The Philippine president is legitimate and influential, thus he or she is not merely a figurehead for the nation. Under article 7 of the Philippine constitution, the president is head of the executive branch. He or she then has a cabinet and several executive departments. Under section eighteen, the president is head of the armed forces. He or she can call upon the military in times of lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In other articles, the president may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment , guarantee loans, and appoint members of the Supreme Court (" THE 1986 PROVISIONAL "). The perception of Arroyo s leadership is very low on a national level. Her approval rating in 2005 was negative thirty-three percent in 2005. This was the lowest rating of any Philippine president. However, it increased to negative three percent in 2007 (Hutchcroft, 150). In the public opinion, the corruption level of the nation remains unchanged or worsened. In a survey, fifty nine percent of the people disapproved of the president s actions (Oyamada, 95). Perhaps this is due to the lack of protection for women that was mentioned above, paragraphs ago if the majority of the people surveyed were women. Another reason why her approval is low is
the country s participation in the Iraq war. This was against many people s wishes to remain neutral in the Middle-East s and United States affairs. Even though the Philippine s participation in the Iraq war resulted in Arroyo s disapproval on a national level, it allows for her approval internationally with the United States. Arroyo decided to enter the war after the bombing of the Davao International Airport in the Philippines. In this way, she was making an attempt to combat terrorism. However, the bombing is also a testament to poor national security under Arroyo. There is ample evidence that Arroyo s leadership has been poor and unsuccessful from the beginning of her term. Days after she took office, she declared a state of rebellion when twenty thousand Estrada supporters tried to invade the president s residence. Many people were killed ("Gloria Macapagal Arroyo"). A major accusation of corruption occurred in the May 2007 election. During this election two thirds, or eighty-seven thousand registered voters participated in the election (Hutchcroft ,144). She won the election by a landslide. Later, she was accused of personal involvement of fixing the results with phone-call evidence. However, she denied it was her in a pubic apology; the court ruled in favor of her, not issuing impeachment (Hutchcroft, 145). On crime handling, Arroyo has failed miserably. 32 journalists were killed between 1991 and 2006 due to terrorism and civilians. Of these deaths, there were only 2 convictions of murder. Political unrest led to election killings. The police unsuccessfully prevented 148 deaths in 2004, 111 in 2001, 121 in 2007 (Hutchcroft ,150).
Environmentally, Arroyo s administration failed to meet their goals. She did not increase forest cover, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, or provide urban areas with water (Hutchcroft, 182). Despite her administration s failures, Arroyo excelled economically. During her presidency, economic growth was six percent (Hutchcroft, 152). This was due to increasing export receipts and foreign investments, and a record remittance from workers overseas. Finally, the stock market reached a record high in 2006 ("Gloria Macapagal Arroyo"). Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo defeated Filipino odds when she became president in 2001. Throughout her presidency, the nation suffered many hardships leading to a national disapproval of her administration. However, she improved the economy and established good international relations that will help the Philippines develop even further in the future.
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