Swedish Ambassador’s Residence, Forbes Park, Makati City
This is really an advocacy that is personal to the Vice President. Even before she entered public service, the VP as a lawyer was already representing clients who have been victims of gender-based violence. In Congress, we served together in the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, and she was always a consistent champion for legislation, for resolutions that actually attempted to address the issue of gender-based violence. So it isn’t a surprise that as Vice President, she identified women empowerment as one of the key advocacies of her office—it’s one of the six pillars under her flagship Angat Buhay program. In the context of the #RespetoNaman campaign, the Vice President has been very, very clear that while we pursue women empowerment in the context of an anti-poverty campaign through Angat Buhay, it is not enough to simply provide livelihood or economic support for women in communities in remote areas of the country. It is also important to create an environment where they are strengthened, where they can actually fulfill their full potential because their rights are likewise recognized. That is why she has always been a very, very firm and enthusiastic supporter of the #RespetoNaman campaign. Next week, November 25, the exhibit will be in Naga City, and the Vice President will be personally present to actually participate in the launch in Naga. During one of our meetings several months ago with the Ambassador and our other partners, talking about where we should take this campaign in the coming months, she was very, very careful to emphasize that we should start reaching out to more remote cities, rural areas, non-traditional cities, and then partnering up with potential allies in these areas or the local government units, from law schools, from local NGOs. Because the idea, really, is not just to have the campaign at that level of national media, but more importantly, to reach out to the level of communities, to make it really something which changes consciousness at the level of each neighborhood, each community, no matter how remote they may be—from the center of national media. And it’s not surprising for the Vice President to emphasize that because in her own experience as an advocate, as a lawyer, and then as a representative of the 3rd District of Camarines Sur, she has always felt that any kind of initiative will be successful only if we can bring it down to the level of real people in the most remote communities of our nation. So I think that that’s a very, very optimistic direction for this particular campaign today.
Just a last note. Two weeks ago, the Vice President accepted a new role as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs and the amount of work she has had to take on because of that designation is really something very, very difficult to imagine. But it’s a testament to her commitment to this particular campaign, notwithstanding all her new responsibilities. She is still placing the #RespetoNaman campaign and her advocacies for women empowerment at the forefront of her priorities as Vice President, and as one of the key advocacy points of her office. The irony is, I suppose, is that barely three days, four days into her new designation, she already had to endure the condescension and mansplaining from so many quarters questioning her capacity, questioning her experience which, I suppose, is just a more polite way of questioning her identity as a woman, and therefore her capacity to do what many would expect should be a man’s job. And the point there is, if the Vice President of the Philippines, the second highest official in the land, a person who has served in Congress, who is a lawyer, who has actually spent so many years fighting for the rights of women can be subjected to that kind of condescension, if she can be targeted online and be threatened with rape, if her daughters can be threatened with rape, then that gives you an idea of the signs of the problem that we still need to confront, and the urgency of the steps that we still need to take today. And this morning, as in previous meetings and in previous activities of the #RespetoNaman campaign, on behalf of the Vice President, I would just like to declare her full support and her continued commitment to see this particular advocacy succeed. Thank you very much and good morning.