Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 5      March 6-12, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Copyright 2004 Bulatlat


Filipino Women Find No Comfort from a Woman President

Edith Gallardo sells kakanin (rice cakes) for a living. Sometimes, she would also sell pancit and boiled peanuts to earn more money. She earns an average of P100–P150 a day. For Gallardo and other impoverished Filipino women, having a woman president is no solace. She believes that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has done nothing to lift Filipino women from poverty and exploitation.


Women from different sectors of Philippine society presented their woes during a forum called Ulat Lila (Purple Report) organized by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), March 4.

As wives and mothers, women are always the first to bear the brunt of economic devastation.  Based on the 2003 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), three out of five Filipino families live a hand-to-mouth existence. 

Inflation rate was pegged at 7.4 percent at the end of 2004, the highest in six years.  Meanwhile, the real value of the peso stands at P0.53 due to increases in prices of commodities and services.

In 2004, the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) increased 12 times, with a total increase of P144.65 per 11-kg cylinder.  The price of LPG increased by P80 from January 2004 to February 2005.

Water rates have also risen.  Maynilad jacked up its rate by 36 percent and Manila Water by 21 percent.  Electricity rates also went up.  A family consuming 120 kwh to 200 kwh of electricity a month pays 34 percent higher. Those who consume 1000 kwh a month pay 28 percent more.

Gertrude Libang, executive director of the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), said that the impending Value-Added Tax (VAT) increase would burden the consumers even more.  “Since the consumer is at the end of the chain with no one to pass the VAT to, she/he ends up taking up the VAT.”

An example cited by Libang is a can of sardines.  With VAT at 10 percent, a can of sardines costs P9.87. At 12 percent, the price goes up to P10.60 per can.

Women workers

Unemployment rate among women was 11.7 percent as of October 2004. Only two out of five workers are women.  Women’s labor force participation rate is only 50 percent as against men’s 83 percent.  Half of the women work force are therefore part of the reserved labor force.

Nanette Miranda, spokesperson of the Koalisyon Laban sa Kontraktwalisasyon (Coalition Against Contractualization) criticized the Macapagal-Arroyo government for not doing anything about the widespread contractualization of labor which, she said, affects most women workers.

Twenty-five percent of the workers in the industrial and service sectors are non-regular workers.  According to the labor department, there are 651,000 non-regular workers in 2003.  Forty-seven percent or 307,000 are contractuals who work in construction projects, real estate, renting and business activities.  Twenty-four percent or 159,000 are casual workers in hotels and restaurants.  Probationary workers account for 18 percent or 120,000 of non-regular workers.  There are 67,000 apprentices/learners and seasonal workers.  

Miranda revealed that women working in factories work more than eight hours a day to meet the company’s quota.  She also cited the pregnancy test as an additional requirement for work. 

“Mas tumitindi ang kalagayan ng mga manggagawang kababaihan sa ilalim ng babaeng presidente,” (The situation of the women workers and the workers in general has worsened under a woman president) Miranda said.

Peasant women

According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), there were 11.8 million agricultural workers and farmers as of October 2004. The average wage of women in agricultural sector, based on Bureau of Agricultural Statistics’ report, is P127.98.  This amount is 15 percent less than the wage of their male counterparts.

Zen Soriano, spokesperson of the Amihan (National Federation of Peasant Women), complained they hardly feel the country’s supposed “economic growth.” “Binibili sa murang halaga ang aming ani kahit napakataas ng aming gastos.  Hindi kami ang nakakapagpresyo kundi ang mga traders.” (Our products are bought at low prices.  It is not us who determine the price of our products but the traders.)

Soriano also said that ordinary farmers like her do not benefit from the Gloria rice. The said hybrid rice, Soriano said, needs inputs they cannot afford to buy.  “Wala namang subsidyong ibinibigay sa amin kaya walang saysay ang Gloria rice.” (We do not get any subsidy from the government. Gloria rice is senseless for the poor farmers.) 

The peasant leader also said the government has failed to implement a genuine agrarian reform program. The Department of Agrarian Reform, now called Department of Land Reform (DLR), claimed 3.37 million hectares of land were distributed in 30 years. However, data from the department do not include re-claimed emancipation patents and certificate of land ownership awards (CLOA). Based on government data, 75 percent of the beneficiaries are men.

Soriano also hit Macapagal-Arroyo’s plan of allotting one to two million hectares of land for agri-business.

Gusto nila ayusin ang Konsitusyon para paaygan ang 100% foreign ownership.” (They want to change the Constitution to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of land.)

Soriano related that some mothers leave their families to work as domestic helpers in the cities in order to augment the limited income. “Ang mga nanay hahanap ng paraan para mabuhay ang pamilya. Iiwan ang mga anak sa kamag-anak, kapitbahay. Minsan, naaabuso ang aming mga anak na babae.” (Mothers will find ways to support the family. They will leave their children to relatives, neighbors.  In some cases, our daughters are subjected to abuse.)

The lifting of restrictions on rice importation, Soriano said, is tantamount of depriving them of their livelihood.  “Pinapatay ni GMA ang kabuhayan natin.” (GMA is killing our livelihood sources.)

Migrant women

Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of the Migrante International, said that 65 percent of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are women, mostly in the service sector.  Every day, 3,000 Filipinos leave the country to work abroad.

Fifteen percent of the Filipino families are dependent on OFW remittances.  The World Bank estimates OFWs remit USD 8 billion annually.

Regalado herself worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 13 years. She said the Hong Kong government has persistently pushed for their wage cut.  “We work for 12-16 hours a day,” she said, usually receiving a monthly salary of P18,000. Of this, they send home P15,000.

Regalado also revealed that after 9/11, there has been an intensified crackdown on illegal immigrants in many countries. Many Filipinos have been detained.  This, she said, have resulted in massive deportation. However, the Philippine government has only promised to provide free passports and could not provide job opportunities for the returning OFWs.

Urban poor

Edith Gallardo of the Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (Samakana or Organization of United Urban Poor Women)-Tatalon Chapter also shares Regalado’s sentiments. Gallardo sells kakanin (rice cakes) for a living. Sometimes, she would also sell pancit and boiled peanuts. She earns P100–P150 a day.

Gallardo said they usually have sardinas and noodles for meal. Like any other family living in an urban poor community, they are constantly threatened of demolition.

Based on the estimates by the National Housing Authority, there are 1.41 million informal settlers in the country.  Fifty-two percent of this can be found in the National Capital Region.

The budget of the government for housing is a measly P2.74 billion in 2004, accounting for only 0.30 percent of the national budget. The Macapagal-Arroyo government promised to build 1.2 million houses for the poor. In her three-year term, the government only accomplished 73.6 percent of its target or 882,823 units. The figure is only 25 percent of the total house units needed by the urban poor.

Gallardo also related the death of her sick mother. “Dinala ko siya sa public hospital, hiningan ako ng P1,000 pandeposito.  Saan ko po kukunin iyon? Namatay siya na hindi nagagamot.”  (I took her to a public hospital. I was asked to deposit P1,000. Where would I get that? My mother died without receiving any treatment.)

Gallardo vowed, “Pag nakita ko si Gloria, hindi ko siya patatawarin, siya ang pumatay sa aking nanay.”  (When I see Gloria [Macapagal-Arroyo], I will not forgive her. She was the one who killed my mother.)

Violence against women

The violence against women continues.  In 2004, there were 2,005 cases of sexual abuse reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP).  Documented cases of rape reached 1,228.  Meanwhile, cases of sex trafficking and white slavery increased four times from 2003 to 2004.

Figures from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on the other hand are higher.  Based on its records, there were 11,526 cases of violence against women and children in 2004.  Ninety percent of the cases filed before the DSWD were cases of sexual abuse against girls.  Of the 3,346 rape cases, 31 percent were cases of incest.

Facing the Challenges

Gertrude Libang, executive director of the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), said, “The challenge for women now is how to course the tide in their favor. Each issue indicates a formidable task of reckoning and action, and clearly, there are a lot of things to be done.  Women should recognize that they play a decisive role in the transformation of the Philippine society.”

She ends, “The feudal view has portrayed women as the hand that rocks the cradle.  But in this era and in this trying moment in our country, women is also the same hand that wields half of the power of the people.  President Macapagal-Arroyo should realize this.”  Bulatlat



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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