The Beauty of Women in Philippine Government



I am fascinated by the power and influence of women in Philippine government. I know I risk getting caught up in gender wars, but it seems to me appropriate to recognize this peculiar circumstance.

How did it come to pass that women, in a substantially Catholic nation, would rise so broadly to positions of authority. They are not the nuns of government, they are the priests.

The Philippines has had two women presidents during modern times. The United States, none.



  • Senator Miriam Santiago rises to the pulpit frequently to draw the attention of the entire nation – its press corps, its legislators, its people – to the wayward ways of government officials. Her forte is the law and sex jokes. She has done more to advance the rule of law in the Philippines than an entire court system. And she succeeds because she has the ability to talk straight, talk loud, and take the edge off the debate by poking fun at herself.

Or the three furies of the Aquino Adminstration, the women charged with enforcing disciplined good behavior in a land that is rather undisciplined. They do it with a sense of purpose, honestly, honorably. They are working hard to remake the nation:


De Lima

  • Ombudsman Conchita Morales
  • Justice Secretary Leila De Lima
  • BIR Commissioner Kim Henares

We have two veteran senators and two newbies who threaten to make the Senate a place of modern values and candid government. The recalcitrant, slow old men drag their feet as the women push and prod for principled values and deeds like the HR Law and a Freedom of Information Act.

  • Loren Legarda
  • Pia Cayetano
  • Grace Poe
  • Cynthia Villar
women - hinares


We have a woman senator thrust into office by an ambitious father who cares little about capability and credibility on the job. She seems a decent person who works diligently but awkwardly trapped as a puppet of the enduring trapos system of power and favor:

  • Nancy Binay

We have the two big time ladies in jail and a former dictator’s wife ambling about in congress proving to us that the Philippines still has its broader “people’s values” on crookedly. They are the shadows cast by the light that other women bring to Philippine government.



  • Former President Gloria Arroyo
  • Disgraced Con-Lady Janet Napoles
  • Congresswoman Imelda Marcos


How does it come to pass that so many strong-willed women play important roles in the Philippines?

Well, I tend to speculate on cultural qualities. Take dynasties, for instance. I have to laugh when I read of dynasties that intersect, again and again, like the streets of Manila. You take Lacson Avenue and zig up to get to Roxas Boulevard. And women tend to emerge from the dynasties:

  • Representative Leni Robredo, rising from the tragic death of her good and popular husband
  • Senator Cynthia Villar, carrying on the work of her husband, former Senator Manny Villar
  • Grace Poe redeeming her father who had an election stolen from him, Fernando Poe


Search the wiki profile of most women on the list, and you will find FAMILY connections that leveraged them into government work, and into prominence. The house has some 50 female members, three of whom are named Imelda. Arroyo is in the house, Binay, Ocampo, Marcos, Villarosa, and Cojuanco. [Source: Wiki]

Women in Philippine government are well-educated, well-spoken, and for the most part standing for good values. They seem more impatient than the men. More modern.



If I were the next president, I’d get Senator Legarda out of the Congress and put her into an executive role as head of DOTC or DILG. Same with Senators Poe, Villar and Cayetano. And diligent people like Morales and Hinares, who are doing a lot of tough technical work, ought to be broadened by appointments out of the “enforcement” fields. Or be backed for a run at the Senate.

It’s the corporate model for developing CEO’s: Identify. Challenge. Develop. Promote.

If the men insist on being bound up in the wobbly values of favor and “who you know, own, or owe”, rather than what you do . . . or if the men simply can’t work hard or smart or fast enough, like House Speaker Belmonte promising FOI by 2015, dump ’em and put the women in charge.

Enrich the nation. Bring it to life.

Enrich us all.

53 Responses to “The Beauty of Women in Philippine Government”
  1. Paul Lazo says:

    I can only agree with you on this one. The reasons are actually quite simple. The Philippines is a matriarchal society (my definition of matriarchal is based on who is the boss in the typical household – in this case the mother). Typically, young girls are given responsibilities early in life – clean the house, wash the cloths, cook, etc. While boys are encouraged to go out with their “barkada”, get drunk and chase women. I guess, if you want your house cleaned, ask a woman. Even “baklas” will do a better job than most men. I think in your immediate family you will see what I mean!

    • Joe America says:

      That all makes good sense, even the part about my wife being bossier than me ahahahahaha.

    • pussyfooter says:

      Rumor has it gay people are preferred over straight males for retail and service jobs because they generally have a more “pleasing personality”, as they call it, and so presumably sell better. Dr. Michael Tan writing for the PDI has written at least one column on the general perception–if not fact–that gay males are sometimes more valued(?) by their families because they help provide for their siblings, etc. when they earn money, unlike straight males.

      I have to say, when I’m eating out, I generally prefer to be served by a female rather than a (straight) male. A lot quicker on the uptake, I find. But then, I’m female so I may be biased 😉

      • Paul Lazo says:

        True dat…and you will even notice that cashiers are all women or gay men because they can be trusted with money; something I learned a long time ago when I was a supervisor in a fast food chain.

  2. edgar lores says:

    The Made in China keyboard is acting up. It’s Henares with an e.

  3. edgar lores says:

    1. Speaking as an enlightened male chauvinist pig, women are the bane and the boon of existence. As the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) realized, “Women, can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.”

    2. Wise man. He also said, in another aphorism that applies to the Philippines, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Make that “the one-eyed man or woman is king.”

    3. And another, which I love and which proves that this is a man after my own heart: “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

    4. But back to the fairer and fearsome sex. Many volumes have been written, many songs sung, many flagons emptied, in fulsome praise of this divine creature. Would Dante have produced his Divine Comedy without Beatrice? Would Shakespeare’s sonnets have seen the light of day without the Dark Lady? And would the Church have so many devotees without The Lady of So Many Places?

    5. I hope, I trust, I pray that the Furies will patiently work at the loom, and weave their strands of integrity, honesty and justness into the fraying fabric of the nation.

    6. Women are the saving grace of the land. Perhaps we need the saving Grace.

    • Joe America says:

      ‘Tis the eloquence that strikes my fancy, the meanings hidden within poetic meanings, like so many riddles waiting to be solved.

    • andrew lim says:

      Like Joe, I marvel at the heights of your literary skills, but I worry that your sabbatical may take you too far up the ceiling, the rest of us may strain our necks gazing at your work. ha ha ha joking of course….

      (just finished reading a book on “Michaelangelo and the Pope,” the drama behind the painting of the Sistine chapel)

      • edgar lores says:

        Andrew, You will know I have reached that lofty goal of enlightenment when I begin to tell fart jokes with obvious relish and total abandonment. It will signify I have “come down to earth”.

    • joy oh says:

      as i always do…read the comments… they’re just as priceless… so wise and glib this mr. lores 🙂

  4. i have only read of your posts in raissa robles blog and am smitten…. only recently that i found out you have your own blog….and i immediately signed up for updates….never regretted that decision…now, i’m hooked….your articles are a real exercise to the cerebral hemisphere! thank you!

    • Joe America says:

      Thank you Annalissa. Our rates are reasonable and the take-away pretty much accelerates for those with open minds. Plus, those who comment earn bonus points, which are doubled if they catch JoeAm thinking wrongly. Congratulations on joining our Society of fundamentally good people.

  5. pussyfooter says:

    Well, there are certain minor(?) notes to be made such as Miriam being generally considered classic trapo/balimbing (ran for president against FVR, hasn’t stopped claiming she was cheated–as they all do; IIRC has a history of convenient changes in political alliances); Villar being, well, Mrs. Manny Villar (i’m not sure that “scandal” over the highway being rerouted to favor their real estate projects has ever been cleared); and Binay being, well, VP Binay Jr. and apparently a splendidly obedient daughter in the best Pinoy tradition *eyeroll*.

    But yes, given the rest of them and particularly Poe, Cayetano, Robredo, the three Furies (though as a hardworking ordinary taxpayer I have the occasional bone to pick with Henares, haha), plus that doktora-Cabinet member(?) who has been solidly backing the RH Bill (sorry, her name and position escape me for now!) and partylist reps in Congress such as Hontiveros and Bag-ao–one sorely wishes there were many more of them around, and off with the likes of Jinggoy, Tito Sotto, and other moronic males in far too much power.

    • pussyfooter says:

      Ooh, it might also be interesting to include Sara Duterte, erstwhile mayor of Davao City, the media- (and, predictably, CHR-)beleaguered sheriff-slugger. Too bad she’s stepped down nice and quiet after her one term. (Her brother, incidentally, who is also in Davao politics, is notorious for being pretty much useless…and other nasty things. Ho hum 😉 )

    • ella says:

      Oh You are talking about Esperanza Cabral, former health secretary and yes a strong supporter of the RH Bill. She is also a woman of action.

    • Joe America says:

      Nice clarifications. Yes, whatever happened to the great road relocation scandal? Like most things in the judicial process, it seems to have disappeared with the passing of time, and our crackerjack media are onto the next scandal . . . and the next . . .

      Women cabinet members, in addition to Leila de Lima, are Corazon Juliano-Soliman (Social Welfare), Rosalinda D. Baldoz (Labor and Employment) and Patricia Licuanan (Commission on Higher Education). I’d imagine all three would be pro-RH.

      I agree, if you put the men and the women in congress side by side, and ask which group would I place my life with, I’d for sure go with the women. The men seem like slap-happy losers looking for fame but not willing to work for it. Intellectually, at least.

  6. What is this travesty Joe? How can you betray your own male species?

    Let me show you the POWER of men over the mere beauty of women in Philippine politics.

    Our national hero, Rizal, is male and a PLAYBOY,

    According to loyalist and Ilocanos, the greatest president we had, Marcos, is male.

    According to his own biography, the greatest president we never had, Enrile, is male.

    The most sinful president the Philippines had, Erap, is male.

    The three– sometimes four–senathieves, Enrile, Jinggoy, Bong, and Honasan, are all males.

    GMA’s lawyer, Topacio, is male with BALLS or willing to be without it.

    The most principled President the Philippines had, Pnoy, is male.
    Note: biologists say that larger bald spots are indicator of greater testosterone levels.

    Heck even Juan Tamad, (“Lazy Juan” in English– a personification of stereotyped Filipino laziness) is male… Ooops!

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahaha, you leave me speechless . . . other than to note that Rizal set the national standard of a girl in every port, which is adhered to even today by so many of our kind . . .

  7. Dee says:

    Let us not forget: Behind every successful man is a wise and strong woman, and a surprised mother-in-law. Imelda was Ferdi’s wind beneath his wings. She’s still alive because true to the tradition of masamang damo, she is going to stick around to see Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice battle it out for the White House.

    • Joe America says:

      And behind every corrupt woman there is a corrupt man I tend to think. Gloria was not on her own.

      I think Condoleeza Rice is not acceptable to the reactionary Tea Party, so will never make the finals. The dirt is already starting to fly about Hillary and some of her remarks about Monica L. It’s a nasty business. She may decide she will stay above all that and do good deeds like her brilliant but flawed husband.

      • Dee says:

        True, but Gloria made a choice. She surrounded herself with men of dubious qualities who poisoned her well. She failed to put ICTP in practice. She is accountable for her actions and decisions.
        The Tea Party would love to throw Bachmann and Palin back in the ring. I do not think the masses will vote for them. I think they will not pass even the primaries. The Hillary backlash will not die out until she formally announces that she will not run for presidency. Character assassination is a universal game in politics. It is the price she had to pay for the White House. Condi may not be the TP darling but she has a strong conservative following. Compared to other women in the Republican party, she is well credentialed and way more palatable.

  8. Joseph-Ivo says:

    And so little about the most promising of all. “Vote for Nancy”. She is extremely qualified as she has done her OJT (on the job training) with the best politician of this generation, the man who made Makati at par with the best Californian cities. (forget McMicking). She can express the through needs of Filipinos in simple sentences, for example in a discussion on the complex forms of Philhealth. “I didn’t know that viral illness [common cold?] is not included in the Philhealth package, when that’s a common illness. Had I known it’s like that then I could have told him [my husband] to write dengue instead so we could avail of the Philhealth [benefits]”.

    Don’t you agree that it would be only a small effort for Philhealth to indicate where it is easy to cheat, just adding a little asterisk and explaining at the bottom all viable alternatives. Wouldn’t it be easy for the administration to issue a brochure for all legislators explaining where it is easy to cheat and add a price list of what it cost for them to look in the other direction. Life would be so much more stress free if we just help each other and talk openly about all possibilities to enrich oneself. “Help your neighbor where you can”, we are a Catholic country after all.

    And the brilliant politician like this you keep in the shadow? Or is your trick to launch her in due time knowing that early front runners have an uphill struggle?

    • edgar lores says:

      I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. (craugh, border on hysteria, laucry)

      • Joe America says:

        Me either, so I decided to fart. ahahahaha

        • edgar lores says:

          You have attained satori.

        • edgar lores says:

          Correction: You, grasshopper, have attained satori.

          • Joe America says:

            Satori (悟り?) (Chinese: 悟; pinyin: wù; Korean: 오 o; Vietnamese: ngộ) is a Japanese Buddhist term for awakening, “comprehension; understanding”.

            The grasshopper is an insect of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish it from bush crickets or katydids, it is sometimes referred to as the short-horned grasshopper. Species that change colour and behaviour at high population densities are called locusts.

          • Aesop (620–560 BC), a slave and story-teller who lived in Ancient Greece, told a tale called The Ant and the Grasshopper. In this tale, the ant worked hard preparing his shelter and stores of food all summer, while the grasshopper played. When winter came, the ant was prepared, but the grasshopper has no shelter or food. He begs to enter the ant’s house, but the ant refuses and the grasshopper starves.

            As a result of the popularity of Aesop’s fable in Western culture, various other human weaknesses besides improvidence began to be identified with the grasshopper’s behaviour. So an unfaithful woman (hopping from man to man) became known as ‘a grasshopper’. Portrayal of such women occurs for example in Poprygunya, a short story written in 1892 by Anton Chekhov, and in Jerry Paris’ 1969 film “The Grasshopper”.

            Those who are unable to keep a single subject in focus but keep bringing in inappropriate associations (hopping from one thing to another) are said to have ‘a grasshopper mind’.

            Partly as a result of this, ‘grasshopper’ has lately come to refer to a person who has much to learn. Its use originated from the television show Kung Fu (1972–1975). Caine, the young student, portrayed by Radames Pera, is receiving instruction from his Master Po (portrayed by Keye Luke) who nicknames his student “Grasshopper” as a term of endearment.

          • I trust you meant it as a term of endearment.

  • Joseph-Ivo says:

    I just learned from the Senate hearing that percentages given to the various conspirators in the a scam are not fixed. And even Senator Nancy, with her bachelor degree in HRM, should know that uncertainty is bad for business. Therefore she could suggest that at the end of each news bulletin, after the financial figures, TV stations should list the current kickback rates per department, this will reduce uncertainty and thus help the economy.

  • Dee says:

    I think Edgar is channelling Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, a 1984 martial arts movie, where he said, “Patience, young grasshopper.” In that case, it was a term of endearment.

    • Joe America says:

      You should be an everyday blogger. You know more about everything than anybody I know. It seems to me the art of blogging is to align such incidental information around current events in such a way as to mean something interesting.

    • edgar lores says:

      Isn’t the Internet wonderful? One can divine the meaning of a relatively obscure/popular reference and establish links to botanic suborders, Aesop’s fables, Chekov (!), and martial arts movies. In truth, Mr. Miyagi was not my model. JoeAm got it correct: “grasshopper” is indeed Kwai Chang Caine as portrayed by Radames Pera, as a young boy, and David Carradine, as an adult, in the the TV Show entitled “Kung Fu”. This dates me.

      I second Dee’s nomination. Let us listen to the beat of her music: is it “doo doo dee doo doo” or “dum dum dee doo doo”?

      • Joe America says:

        Well, next to Dee, Wiki is the best font of all knowledge, and they got grasshopper right. My Sotto-matic mouse merely cut and pasted from them. I only remember playing with the little jumpy bugs as a kid and they would spit what we called “tobacco” on me. Brown slime, essentially. But perhaps I am a little astray from the subject of this blog.

  • J says:

    Pre-colonial Philippine society was never patriarchal. The datu was male, but the equally powerful high priestess was always a female.

    • Joe America says:

      That explains why Catholic preachings have never really held, that superstitions do stick, and people like Arroyo and Napoles can glad-hand the bishops in the morning and use that same hand to grab taxpayer money from the government purse in the afternoon.

      You can lead a priestess to the cathedral, but you can’t make her obey.

  • Faye says:

    I admire Senator Loren Legarda, she’s passionate in what she does and i like all the environmental laws she made.

  • Tanya says:

    Senator Loren Legarda is amazing environmentalist and pro life, no wonder a lot of filipinos adore her.

  • Tricia says:

    Hanga ako sa kasipagan ni Sen legarda sa pagtatanggol sa mga kababaihan at ganun din sa pagsagip sa kalikasan.

  • connet says:

    no doubt that sen loren is admire by all! she’s a wonderful person!

  • Joe America says:

    @Faye, Tanya, Tricia, connet. any further infestation of this blog will get you marked “spam” and Loren Legarda marked as a person who sends out trolls to interfere with decent people who are interested in discussing issues that matter.

  • CantilanKid says:

    Because men in the Philippines have no balls. Morales, De Lima, and Henares have bigger balls than Corona, Enrile, Jinggoy, etc.

  • chit navarro says:

    between your blog and that of Raissa and all the comments thereon is a better read than any newspaper and makes me more aware of the current issues and provide a peek into the future….you have a set of high-fallutin’ satirical, deeply analytical commenters here that I have to read and re-read sometimes to understand the message being conveyed.

    Congratulations for being more Filipino than most of us….!

    • Joe America says:

      Thank you, Chit. That means a lot to me, and I’m sure to the people who file their remarks here. I agree that the people who comment make the blog distinctive, for the relentlessly high ground they plod without insult or insecurity, always in search of meanings and knowledge. You fit in nicely in that regard, as you dig for the meanings from some very smart and literally tricky people. 🙂 I also agree that Raissa makes a very special contribution to the well-being of the Philippines.

    • Mel NL says:

      I agree with your comment!

  • dtr says:

    How about CJ Sereno, where does she fit in all this?

    • Joe America says:

      Aieeee, dtr, what a horrid omission on my part. She should be included for sure, among the list like Cayetano, Legarda, Poe . . . high principled, bright people who are the promise of the Philippines. She has the difficult task of pushing upriver against a group of crusty old men of the power-and-favor era and to that extent reminds me of Secretary De Lima when she chaired the Human Rights Commission a few years back. I hope she develops the determined confidence we see in President Aquino in his push against the grain of corruption and favor-dealing.

      Thank you for pointing out the gross omission. I must have been taking a nap when I was supposed to think beyond the front-pagers.

  • Jake says:

    It boils down to the matricentric culture. On the outside, it seems that it is paternalistic. Laws can be paternalistic, however, family life revolved around the mother.

    Luckily, the Philippines still cherises its women. In the Western world, they are scorned by people stuck in the 50s mentality. It makes me chuckle when I read comments that women should be “housewives” coz there’s nothing wrong with it (why don’t they be househusbands, if there’s nothing wrong with it?), that women are “stealing” jobs from men, blame feminism, etc. While, those Western men who don’t despise the newly found status of women are called “wimps”. There is so much male insecurity in the Western world.

    Government statistics even show that there are more women managers in the Philippines than men and they earn more than their male counterparts and I have yet to hear men being militant about this.

    In the Philippines, strong women are not put down, If she is criticized, it’s because of bad actions… Meanwhile, it’s quite a trend among politically opinionated Americans who put down a strong willed women because she is a women…. How many times have I read Hilary Clinton being called a B*tch because of her holding a high position, not because of her errs.. which makes me sad because the USA is supposed to be the sample of gender equality?!

    Laws tend to treat genders more equal. Socially, however, is a different story. Example, in the US, there is a push towards gay marriage. But how many “openly gay” do you really see? It is quite opposite in the Philippines. Laws of gender equality are still a setback, gay marriage close to impossible but homosexuals are more open and no one bats an eyelash

  • Neil Mcnally says:

    So very refreshing to read comments which avoid any personal criticism or name-calling of other commenters or the authors.
    Does that mean that we have only mature and thoughtful people reading here..or is there strict editing,moderation and censorship?
    i believe that the readers are respectable and thoughtful,and intelligent.

    • Good of you to visit and note the effort both editor and readers make to strive for civility. There is no censorship in the way of barring contradictory views. Obvious trolls get tossed, and those who persist in going personal get suspended for a term. Most return to join the discussion. Some self-select themselves out.

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