Filipino Women's Issues Discussed as Presidential Elections Draw Near: As the Philippine Presidential Elections Draw near, Women Are Making Sure That Politicians Are Clearly Informed of Women's Demands and Expectations of the Country's Next Leader

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Women's basic needs were presented in the forum Ulat Lila (or Purple Report), sponsored by the Center for Women's Resources (CWR). Entitled "Ulat Lila 2004 What Women Want (For Election 2004): Jobs, Food, and Social Services," the forum enumerated the incumbent president's promises in terms of jobs, food and social services. A presentation also assessed whether or not these promises have been met and what still needs to be done. The forum took place at the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines on 02 March 2004.

According to the 2003 women's situationer researched by CWR, Filipino women's basic needs have not been met. Gertrudes Ranjo-Libang, CWR's executive director, said incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has neglected these aspects in her two-year term. Women want regular jobs where they receive regular incomes that will guarantee sufficient and nutritious food and affordable housing. They also demand free grade school and high school education for their children, and free and accessible medical services.

Lisa Masa, president of the Gabriela Women's Partylist, said women need to scrutinise the current presidential candidates to see who among them will help women when it comes to these issues. She said the problems facing the country today are deeply rooted and are not new, since most are ingrained in society due to the existing corruption in government. As there is no real change happening with every new president's term, Masa said it is time to seriously analyse the current candidates' intended social, political and economic policies.

This is what women's health advocates did by taking a long hard look at the presidential candidates' reproductive rights agenda--or if they had one at all--in the forum "Voting For Health." Organised by the Women's Feature Service (WFS)--Philippines, the event was held on 27 February 2004 in the city of Manila. According to the organisers, reproductive health (Pal-I) is directly connected to the country's alarming population growth; thus, RH and population growth issues must be a high priority of the next Philippine president.

Atty. Rhodora Raterta, executive director of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), said Filipinos should be critical and must look at the government's Pd-I programmes in a human rights perspective. In this context, she described President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's existing programmes as insufficient for Filipinos. As choice is an important aspect of RH, Arroyo seems to be taking this away from Filipino women, Raterta said, since her government only promotes the natural family planning method and even encourages a ban on artificial contraceptives in public health services.

Looking at the other candidates' platforms, opposition candidate Senator Panfilo Lacson is proposing population management with the "two children scheme" for newlyweds, junking natural family planning in favour of artificial methods. To the former Department of Education secretary Atty. Raul Roco, population should be managed in accordance with the UN Millennium Development Goals and couples should be informed about family planning issues and the available options in accordance with their religious beliefs. …