In order to correct the gender imbalance and foster equality, Akbayan Reps. Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello introduced a bill that seeks to provide incentives to political parties that would integrate women in their leadership and internal policy-making structures.
House Bill 3877, also known as the "Women Participation and Representation in Political Parties Act of 2013", aims to promote women participation and equitable representation by providing incentives to political parties which have women agenda and which have internal policies which promote women participation and equitable representation.
The bill also aims to appropriate a "Women in Political Parties Empowerment Fund" that will be used to finance and support women development agenda and activities of political parties.
"While the Philippines has made steady progress in closing gender gaps in education and health, the limited participation and representation of women in top level management posts and key policy-making units remains an issue of concern that requires the active intervention of the state," Gutierrez said.
In the recent Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum (2013), the Philippines ranked 5th among 133 countries on gender parity. In the report, the status of women in the country as reflected in the four indices of the report showed above-average marks (Economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment). But in all those four indicators, the Political Empowerment index remains an issue that needs to be addressed.
"Although a lot of women are involved in government and political works, it is notable, however, that their presence is only observable at the lower levels of our political and governance systems. It narrows, however, as we move higher to top management and elected or ministerial posts," Gutierrez said.
"The composition of the 16th Congress, for instance, is highly dominated by men: only 78 out of 225 seats in the House of Representatives and 6 out of 24 seats in the Senate are occupied by women, or 27.1% and 25%, respectively. And only two women out of fourteen (14%) succeeded to hold the Philippine presidency," he added.
According to the United Nations, the critical mass that indicates sufficient women participation in any given body is 30%.
"We have to speed up the rate of increasing women participation in our political and nation-building processes in order to balance gender differences in politics and governance. A substantial mass of women in our public service system will ensure that their needs and interests are taken into account in decision-making processes that affect their lives in all levels of public life," Gutierrez said.
The lawmaker also emphasized that the bill is an affirmative action that intends to accelerate political participation and equitable representation of women in politics and governance. Thus, it will not force political parties to adapt its recommendations, but it will strongly support those who will integrate, promote and strongly advocate women agenda in their systems and platforms thru an incentive-based system.
"Compliance to the bill will not be mandatory because, while there is a need to ensure that women are given equal representation and participation, it is equally important that such acts are undertaken freely and willingly. This way, competence, meritocracy and willingness to render public service will not be sacrificed," he said.
"Furthermore, the proposed legislation will expedite the fulfillment of the State mandate to address all forms of gender inequality in the society. It will also act as a complement to the Magna Carta for Women that aims to advance the emancipation and empowerment of women, and ensure that its provisions and intents are fully realized," he said.