Lady Palace official cites PHL progress in gender equality

MANILA-- A lady MalacaAang official on Wednesday touted the country's progress in advancing women's rights, saying that the Philippines has always been in the forefront of guaranteeing protection of women.

In an interview aired over PTV4/RADYOBISYON, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Rafael-Banaag said the Philippines had always been sensitive towards protecting its women, proof of which was its lofty standing in the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report.

According to the WEF 2016 report, the Philippines is number one among Asia-Pacific nations in narrowing the gap between women and men.

Globally, the country retained its seventh spot out of 144 countries surveyed in the WEF's Global Gender Gap Report.

The Philippines scored 78.6 percent out of 100 percent -- meaning it has nearly closed the gap in four key areas monitored by the report: Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, Economic Opportunity and Political Empowerment.

New Zealand is the only other Asia-Pacific nation in the global top 10, coming in at number nine, while economic heavyweights in the region such as China, Japan and Korea ranked 99th, 111th and 116th, respectively.

According to the report, the Philippines ranked first globally in terms of educational attainment and the health and survival indicators.

However, the Philippines ranked 17th in the political empowerment indicator and 21st in the economic participation and opportunity indicator.

But despite the Philippines ranking first in terms of women's health, Banaag said that the government still continued to enact laws that sought to improve further the health welfare of Filipino women.

"Like yesterday or the other day, na aprubahan na sa Senado iyong maternity leave na 120 days. 120 days for women and for single moms 150 days whether legitimate or illegitimate iyong ipapanganak na bata. So malaking bagay iyan. 120 days is four months. So malaking bagay iyon," the lady official said.

Present laws limit maternity leave to 30 days which, Banaag said, was insufficient to attain full recovery.

She said an extended paternity leave was also being eyed to further enhance gender equality by assuring that women would not only be the one caring for the newborn child.

She also pointed out that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has already made strides in closing the gaps in political empowerment as well as in the economic participation and opportunity indicators.

She cited the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) where eight of the top ten cadets who will graduate on March 12 are females.

In fact, the class mistah or top cadet, is a miss.

Cadet First Class Rovi Mairel Valino Martinez ranks first among the 167 members of Salaknib Class of 2017 who will receive their military commission from President Duterte on Sunday.

In the field of governance, Banaag said that President Duterte did not discriminate between men and women.

"Walang babae o lalake ang nakikita si President Duterte when it comes to governing. Of course, like his daughter, si Mayor Inday, (Sara) 'di ba. So he doesn't see it na it should be a men's world sa Gabinete," she said.

"Nakikita naman natin, at tingan ninyo naman si (Education) Sec. (Leonor) Briones, si (Social Welfare and Developpment) Sec. (Judy) Taguiwalo, napaka-active nila, and of course (Environment) Secretary Gina (Lopez) na medyo controversial. Pero he supports women," Banaag pointed out.

On claims that Duterte is anti-women or being insensitive to women, the Palace official said that the President had a penchant for joking.

"He jokes too much of course. But then, it doesn't mean to say that he doesn't trust women to be part of government and to be part of nation building," Banaag stressed.

In the meantime, MalacaAang has lined up several activities as part of the Women's Month celebrations.

Banaag said that there would be a Digon's Day for Women on March 31 at the Palace grounds.

She said that all the line agencies of government would be there to extend help to Filipino women who would proceed to MalacaAang.

On March 22, the Presidential Communications Office as well as all the line agencies would visit the Correctional Institution for Women for a simple program.

Banaag said that before the event, they were hoping that the rest of the 57 elderly and sickly women prisoners recommended for executive clemency would be freed.

Last February 22, President Duterte granted executive clemency to 27 inmates, three of which are women."We're hoping, we're praying na lahat ng 57 na iyon ay lahat ng 57 na pinasok, minus three, so may 54 pa. We're praying na, hopefully before that day comes ay lumabas na iyong papel," Banaag said.

Source: Philippines News Agency