MANILA, Philippines - “Women should support women running for public office. But not just any woman. Women we support must be steeped in notions of social justice, human rights and gender equality. ” said Irene M. Santiago, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of the Mindanao Commission on Women during the National Women’s Summit held recently at Miriam College, Quezon City.
Santiago spoke on the topic “Women in Political and Electoral Reforms” and the summit gathered women’s groups, nongovernmental organizations and women in government to assess the situation of women at the national and local levels.
It was held to prepare Philippine participants for the Asia Pacific Beijing+ 15 Nongovernmental organizations Forum that followed after the summit.
Santiago further urged women not to “drop” female candidates once they got elected. “We tend to do that. We start criticizing them and holding them to a very high standard that we don’t do to other politicians,” she said.
“This female public official needs us to help her navigate through the storm of conflicting interests that will most surely buffet her sails. That’s when she most needs her constituency – to help her be true to the ‘incandescent dream’ of integrity and accountability in public office. We, too, need to continue to be true to our collective vision of democracy to which we will hold her accountable,” she said.
Santiago also regaled the audience with anecdotes on her foray into politics when she accepted an offer from Sen. Raul Roco to run as his running mate for the national elections in 1998. At first, she hesitated but finally said yes to stand true to her conviction that women should run for public office. Women should be involved in all levels of decision-making by this redefine the notions of power, knowing that women tend to see power as dirty: “Power can also mean a potency to act for what is good,” she said.
She proposed other ways to build a women constituency that would get women elected to office: “Get past participation although participation per se is important as a goal. Start advocating for purposive participation. What is the reason for running for public office? The reason must be transformational.”
To get more women in elected office, Santiago suggested that “we start filling the leadership pipeline with women from diverse backgrounds who will espouse different political perspectives. We need to develop a critical mass of female candidates for public office by getting more women into political parties.”
Santiago ended her speech with an inspiring message on how women should pursue “purposive participation”. She said: “Our goal is to transform social, economic and political institutions, many of which are now broken, so that women in the pipeline will flourish along with men of goodwill.”