Author: Pia

IPU Meeting in Geneva 2009

Every October, Parliamentarians from all over the world meet in Geneva for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference. I am currently the  President of the Women Parliamentarians and our  committee of women meets here once a year to take stock of our work and to prepare for the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians the next year (2010 will be in Bangkok).

At the women's meeting with the Sec Gen and Iranian delegates
At the women's meeting with the Sec Gen and Iranian delegates

In the Women’s Committee, we discussed the gender dimension on the topics pending in the IPU’s standing committees:

       On the topic of  Cooperation and shared responsibility  in the fight against organized crime, in particular human trafficking. it was underscored that human trafficking was often under-acknowledged and that the first step was for parliaments to call on governments to recognize the full extent of the problem and develop strategies to address it.  This in fact is a big problem in the Philippines and much needs to be done.

       On the Role of Parliament in developing cooperation in order to accelerate achievement of the MDGs,  the women  emphasized the need to focus on  MDGs 4 and 5, on child and maternal mortality. This has been my campaign in the country for the last two years. We need more midwives to the barrios, more birthing facilities and access to information and support re family planning.

       On Youth Participation in the Democratic Process, it was suggested that different strategies be considered to include young people in parliamentary debates and hearings, parliamentary youth forums and political party work. The need for gender-sensitive training was also emphasized. I met with the representative of UNICEF to brainstorm on this item later in the week. This would be a good project to implement back home.At the plenary hall during the debates on Youth and the Democratic Process with Cong. Emano and Enverga

The Secretary General Anders Johnson briefed us on IPU’s campaign “Parliaments Take Action on Violence Against Women.” IPU is urging parliaments to take part in this campaign and organize activities to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. This has also been my campaign for the past few years (my related blogs on violence).

Our  Gender Partnership Group met twice. We looked at the IPU budget and noted that due to budgetary support for gender issues, the IPU has been able to focus on many gender related activities.  As for participation in the IPU, the Group noted that there are still 6 countries without women parliamentarians from the Gulf States and the Pacific Islands.

At the second meeting, we met with the Senator from Palau who briefed us about the recent election of two women in the Palau Senate.  He explained that Palau is actually a matriarchal society.  Women are king makers in the communities but do not themselves run for office. I opined that there may be  a need for re-orienting society to support women in leadership positions.

At the General Council Meeting on the last day, the body approved the resolution on the emergency item on  Global Food Security. I supported an amendment to  this resolution, urging governments to make microfinance funds available, guaranteeing that at least 50% would go to women.

Finally, I presented the report of the women parliamentarians to the body. Although the IPU meeting formally closed on Wednesday, there were still events going on, including the seminar on the Convention on the Elimination of  All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which I would chair the next day.

Delivering the report on the work of the women parliamentarians
Delivering the report on the work of the women parliamentarians

Over the years, I have  made friends with parliamentarians from different countries. It is always a pleasure to see them during the IPU meetings. Many of them are seasoned parliamentarians, and I always go home inspired by the people I meet and the lessons I learned.

 

Sen. Pimentel, Ambassador Basilio and our friends fr Canada, Sen Carstairs, her husband and Judge Debby
Sen. Pimentel, Ambassador Basilio and our friends fr Canada, Sen Carstairs, her husband and Judge Debby
Chatting with the MP fr Cambodia who I met last Sept when I was a speaker in Siem Reap Cambodia
Chatting with the MP fr Cambodia who I met last Sept when I was a speaker in Siem Reap Cambodia

 

7th 12 Hours In Memory of Gabriel (2009)

My son Gabriel lived for 9 months. Every September, we celebrate his short life  with a 12 hour event in his memory. Friends come to run, walk, bike or do a triathlon.  By doing this, our foundation, Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation, raises funds for kids who are disadvantaged either because of a disability, sickness or poverty. 

I like to think of it as a venue for families to have a day of fitness and fun while helping others. My own kids have done different things over the years. The first year, they actually biked and ran throughout the day stopping only to eat and rest. The succeeding years, they did the kids tri. This year, they both ran the 3k run with their friends. Anthony Pangilan and his son Donny won the Parent and Child buddy run  (official results of all the events will be posted on Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation).

start

runall

The kids triathlon and aquathlon was fun  as always.  Coach Ani de Leon’s  Super Kids, our  future national triathletes were there in full force.  Three  year old Kira Ellis was our youngest participant (youtube video of super kids).

Super Kids
Super Kids

Fresh from the CamSur 70.3 Ironman, my tri-friends,  organized themselves into groups to do an ironman relay. There were 12 teams in all, including two all girls teams called Little Twin Star and Hello Kitty! The Carpo sisters crossed the finish line with their teammates in colorful head gear and attire. Similarly, the sea princess, Tessa Prieto Valdes biked in her tutu. Inspired by all this,  I told Ani and Mailet, we should have a best in costume award next year!

Polotri relay team and me at the finish line
Polotri relay team and me at the finish line

 

Coach Ani with women who did the ironman relay
Coach Ani with women who did the ironman relay

 

 

Tessa, Ani and I after Tessa finished her bike leg
Tessa, Ani and I after Tessa finished her bike leg

 

 

Some of the visually impaired kids, beneficiaries of our Foundation  were there too. They did a demo swim, which prompted me to tell their coach that they may want to train and participate in the aquathon next year. 

Visually Impaired kids swimming as the other kids cheer them on
Visually Impaired kids swimming as the other kids cheer them on

Later that morning they did a demo of table tennis specially designed for visually impaired individuals. We have donated 2 of these tables to blind schools and has committed to donate some more.

table tennis demo of visually impaired kids
table tennis demo of visually impaired kids

We also forged a new tie-up with Carewell Community, a foundation dedicated to provide support for cancer patients and their families. We did a Carewell Bikes for Hope and raised funds both for Gabriel’s foundation and Carewell. 

And of course, my friend,  Maiqui Dayrit,  did his 5th ironman.  Every year, he worries that he is not in shape. But regardless of the shape he is in, he does his 3.8k swim, 180k bike and 42k run. He is by far, the foundation’s, longest running, largest individual donor. God bless your heart and keep you healthy and running strong Maiqui! 

Running with Maiqui
Running with Maiqui
Ani Joey and Me with Maiqui after he finished his 5th Ironman distance.
Ani Joey and Me with Maiqui after he finished his 5th Ironman distance.

As Maiqui was finishing his run,  my brothers and some friends on a whim, decided to do a 200 meter sprint.  The arrangement was regardless of who wins, the group would donate to the foundation. The run lasted all of a few seconds but it was totally fun watching them. 

Then we came up with the idea of having my senate staff do the same 200 meter sprint. Some of the women in my office are quite fit… In fact, three of them Mich, Marvee and Karen did their first sprint triathlon relay in the UP College of Law Dean’s Cup a few weks ago.

Staff run
Staff run

There was just too much that happened that day for me to be sad. I miss my son every day of my life. But so much goodness has come out of his short life. I thank everyone who has made this day memorable, for taking time to join us and for making a difference in the lives of children.

exhibit

Photo exhibits of kids the foundations has helped.
Photo exhibits of kids the foundation has helped.

 

Rice and Eggs and Other Surprises in Desaru (A Tri Story)

We found ourselves in Desaru, Malaysia when the 70.3 Ironman Putrajaya was suddenly postponed. We had trained for months and were ready to race. Ani de Leon instantly found another race, just 1 week after the original race we  trained for. It was called the  Desaru Long Distance Triathlon (2k swim-90k bike-21k run).

Our small Philippine contingent consisted of National tri-champ Ani de Leon, Phil team triathlete and now Coach Peter Gonzalez,  my training partner Joey Torres and me. Ani’s boyfriend Patrice also joined us. We flew into Singapore and caught a 30 minute ferry to Malaysia.

On the ferry to Desaru
On the ferry to Desaru

None of us had ever been there. The roads were beautiful, perfect for biking.  Unfortunately, the hotel we stayed in was not as nice as the roads. It was run down, there were leaking pipes in the bathroom, and there was hardly any food in the restaurant.  We had rice and eggs every meal. Breakfast buffet was..all you can eat rice and eggs. Buti na lang girl scout ako. I had gone food shopping in Singapore and bought fruits and yogurt and some bread.

On Friday morning, we got on our bikes in search of food. We biked about 25km til we found heaven – a Petronas station with a store. We loaded our back packs (I loaded Joey’s since I did not have one) with instant noodles, drinks and chocolate bars.

Race morning breakfast was  boiled water in the coffee pot and voila..instant noodles and egg.   We biked to the Desaru Golden Beach Resort where the race would start.  Nadine, my daughter and  Che would be our water girls and cheering squad rolled into one.nads-and-me-swim

The swim turned out to be a mini-roller coaster. I felt I was moving up and down,  not forward.  Thankfully, I made it and transitioned into the bike segment. I loved that bike course! The roads were smooth and wide,  rolling hills without too many turns. bike  

Soon enough, I  was on to the last segment – the run.It would take me about two hours. Course was hilly with one killer hill where I found most people walking. I didn’t walk it, but I could feel the strain on my calves going up that hill. We passed the Desaru Golden Beach Club a couple of times.This was the best part. Spectators and supporters waited there, cheering and handing out refreshments.  Nadine and Che handed us water, energy bars and whatever they had.

Halfway through the run, I was running towards the crowd of people,  and I spot Nadine holding out a banana. She shouts,” Mommy, mommy, banana?” As I pass her, I shout back, “Later, later, after the turn around.”

my sweet water girl ready to hand me my drink
my sweet water girl ready to hand me my drink

 Throughout that turn-around I dream of that banana. All I have had for the last 4:30 hours is water, some energy drink and gel. 4k later I am back. I can practically taste the banana. I imagine its sweet taste, the potassium and whatever other nutrients a  banana has flowing thru my veins and nourishing my body to give me 1 more hour worth of strength and speed.

As I approached Nadine, I shouted, “Banana! Banana!”

My daughter replies, “Sorry mommy, its gone.”

I said, “What?! Why? What happened?”

 “The monkey ate your banana, mommy.”

one of the culprits
one of the culprits

What can I say? In some triathlon races, you look out for cars,  in others you look out for potholes on the road. In Desaru, you look out for monkeys…and your banana.

I took 6th place in the age group 35 and up. Ani took 5th place in her age-group and Peter Gonzalez took 2nd. Not bad for our small Philippine contingent. We dedicate our race to President Cory Aquino. 

flag in one hand, yellow flower in the other
flag in one hand, yellow flower in the other

 

happy finishers
happy finishers

Like many other women, I’m a trimom. I had promised Nadine that after my race, I was all hers. She wanted to go swimming and show me her dive. So we swam in the pool, and then headed to the beach to catch the waves.  Then we we went back to our hotel to pack-up and eat.

What was our post-race meal?… but of course more noodles and eggs.

A Day with the Running Priest in Hong Kong

How do you spend a day  in Hong Kong with the Running Priest?

Contrary to what many of my friends guessed, there was no running (we’ve done that), no mass, no confession (at least not real confession). But it was still a cardio-packed day filled with spiritual reflection,  thought-provoking conversation and inspiration.

I went to Hong Kong upon the invitation of Fr Robert Reyes,  otherwise known as the Running Priest.  A few weeks ago he was at the Senate and told me about his current work with OFW cancer stricken patients and survivors. He wanted me to meet them and see what we could do to help them.

Buhay Ka members and other OFWs and NGOs
Buhay Ka members and other OFWs and NGOs

I arrived on Sunday afternoon and went straight to the meeting held in the Philippine Consulate. What transpired was an emotional yet extremely inspirational 2 hour dialogue. There are clear gaps in policies and  laws which I am looking into. I will cover this in a separate blog.

The next day, Fr Robert and I agreed, or should I say, connived to show my staff and friends a different side of Hong Kong. I had been  to Lamma Island a few years ago and was excited to go back.. We met at Central station and took a ferry to Lamma. That alone was an adventure because I get seasick very easily. Thankfully, it was a short 25 minute trip and I managed a smile soon as my feet touched land.

We were introduced to island life by the sight of bicycles parked by the pier. This is how people got around in Lamma. No cars, just bicycles and a few miniature vehicles that transport goods. Even their ambulance and fire trucks were miniature versions.

Arriving at Lamma island
Arriving at Lamma island

Fr Robert explained to the group that we would walk to the other side of the island. You could hear  the sound of resistance to Father’s plan but Father simply said, that’s where we are eating, so if you want to eat, you have to walk… end of story.

After passing thru the commercial area,  we found ourselves in the midst of forest cover  walking to the beat of bird sounds. Fr Robert  pointed out the burial sites which seemed to almost blend with the forest. p-and-ace

Our first stop was the Portiuncula Monastery. We met the contemplative sisters, headed by Sister Mary Ann. They served us cold orange juice and told us about the  distance learning program they offer to OFWs.  Sister Mary Ann explained that the objective was to keep the modules as simple and relevant as possible to enable to students to study and comprehend the lessons on their own.009_monastery1

Leslie, an OFW walked me thru the course she was taking.  I was amazed! The topics were very relevant to the lives of the OFWs. One sample test was to make a marketing plan for the sale of pre-paid   cards to other OFWs. 

Our next stop was the taho carinderia. Since the Chinese version of taho is served without sago, I took out my bag of trail mix (nuts and dried fruit) and passed it around to be added as toppings.taho

More walking…. Fr. Robert then announced that we would make a stop to visit  Joey Dyogi, an OFW who has end-stage kidney failure. Although, he no longer works, Joey is still able to avail of subsidized treatment from the Hong Kong government because he was working as a professional and was a permanent resident at the time he got sick. Contrast this with our domestic helpers who lose their benefits once they are no longer employed and who cannot attain permanent residency status despite the number of years of work.

The main path then led to the beach.  After walking in the heat, the urge to jump in the water was almost irresistible. How I wished I had a swimsuit.. I didn’t and neither did anyone else, so we  just took more pictures.

with my staff Atty Karen, Mich, Mike and Peter
with my staff Atty Karen, Mich, Mike and Peter

The next segment of our walk was hilly and hot.  We entertained ourselves with storytelling, jokes and phone calls from people who Fr Robert wanted me to touch base with.hike

Finally, we reached the other side of the island. We sat down for lunch at 4:30 in the afternoon just in time to catch the 5:30 ferry back to the mainland.  ferry

What did we take home from this trip? Because it was led by the Running Priest, our stops were not the usual tourist stops. The people we met  and interacted with along the way had stories that affected us, changed us.I think my staff was inspired to take their fitness to the next level.  We also felt a deeper appreciation of nature walking thru the well-preserved island devoid of vehicles and traffic.  I picked up lessons, I will use to work on legislation and policies for our OFWs.

I plan to go back and take my kids there.  They have been on nature walks, they have climbed Mt. Pulag. But I want them to see Lamma Island where it seems modern living and nature have found a way to co-exist.

 

Good Morning Cebu City Lights

On July 5, 2009, I woke up to the beautiful Cebu City lights. It was 4:15 am. That was my wake-up call to get me to the Milo 21k starting line around 5 am. But I jump ahead of my story.waving1

This is my usually whirlwind 24 hour trip out of Manila. There were two fun things about this trip. One is my daughter Nadine was traveling with me. And two, there was a run the following morning

I had three meetings one after another soon as I arrived in Cebu. I decided my first stop would be a fueling station.. as in deadly delicious calories to satisfy my craving.. aka Leona’s Bake shop.

My friend Jane-jane, owner of Leona’s was kind enough to offer to send over an assortment of goodies to keep me energized for the day but I told her no way! I needed to absorb the good vibes that come out of a bake shop – all that goodness, sweetness and fresh scent of baked bread certainly must stimulate the production of endorphins and the feeling of happiness right?

Yummy sweet loafs at Leona's

So my daughter Nadine and I went there and like kids, well she is one, I’m not, pointed, whispered and stared  at the cakes beckoning at us. To distract me from eating everything on site, I asked for a tour of the facilities which I knew would be an educational experience for both Nadine and me,. We happen to be baking enthusiasts.

I was in apple pie heaven!
I was in apple pie heaven!

After that 20 minute stop-over, we went straight to the hotel. I settled in my daughter with her books and went to my meeting in the lobby. I met with the women of Inner Wheel Club. Our objective was to discuss a joint project between my Pinay in Action and their group for a school tour on violence against women.  There were also students who attended our meeting.with Inner Wheel members and students

I explained to them that I felt it was important  to focus on the youth so they could spot violence early on, avoid it and protect themselves. After some discussion, we agreed that we would try to make this happen soon.

My next meeting was with the representative of 4L in the region. 4L is the organization of women legislators. They are composed of councilors,  board members, vice-mayors, vice-governors and congresswomen. My objective here was to inform them about my project with the local governments and the barangay health workers (BHW), particularly my BHW Health Wellness Summit.

My last meeting for the day was with members of the Cebu Press. I updated them on my legislative work, including the Food and Drug Administration Act which was awaiting the President’s signature, my thoughts on the automation,  women empowerment, reproductive health and other issues of the day.

That ended my official business for the day. 

Next morning started, not bright and early, but dark and early. We were up at 4:15, eating breakfast at 4:30 and out of the hotel before 5 am.

This was my 2nd Milo 21k in Cebu. It’s a huge race and the course takes us thru the city. Not what I would call scenic, as runners really do prefer the country side for a run. But I doubt if there is any countryside in the heart of Cebu city. city2

Being familiar with the course is a plus. I knew there would be no deadly climbs, mostly flats and a few gradual climbs. Thankfully, it was not hot either.top-view

I ran steady. Did not plan on  pushing too hard. This was a training run for me and Ani. We are doing a 70.3 ironman soon and we needed a long run. We were around 11th and 12th place at about 8k. We picked up the pace a bit and by the end of the run, I finished 6th in 2 hours flat. Ani of course, could have done much better, but like I said it was a training run and she just ran at my pace.

 

I need to commend the security that was assigned to me. PO1 Delailah Cayacap Samson was amazing. She is only the 2nd security assigned to me during an out-of-town race that has been able to stick with me.  

group-run1

running-with-peter

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in Shangri-la Mactan with our friends. My daughter Nadine politely asked “can we go to the pool now” over and over while we adults lingered over buffet at Tides. We finally did get to the pool side and stayed there almost ‘til sunset.tides

We were back on the plane 27 hours after we landed, two pounds heavier (courtesy of Leona’s bake shop), but happy (thanks to Leona’s too, productive meetings, a good race and good company).

27 1/2 hours in Cebu. Time well spent. 

My brother, the weekend triathlete and runner

Lino got me into triathlon. He was hooked at a time when I was  a contented runner and scared of venturing into something new. He took me on my first “serious” ride around the village. I got hooked after two rides. Then he got a job that kept him up throughout the nights. I continued to train. He watched me with pride and envy, occasionally joining me for a 10k race or a duathlon.

Last year, he took a year off to study and live  in New York. I missed him. He suggested we do the New York tri together last July since he lived only a few blocks from the race venue.

He didn’t tell me  we had to park our bikes in his bathroom, that we had to carry them down 5 flights of stairs..and then carry them back up. But hey, what could be better than racing in NY with my brother..

Bikes and wetsuits and everything else parked in the bathroom
Bikes and wetsuits and everything else parked in the bathroom

 

I trained a LOT in Manila, he trained a LITTLE in NY. I ran and biked under the sun, he sunbathed in Central Park..

Sunbathing with Gemma in Central Park
Sunbathing with Gemma in Central Park

I did wet suit swims, he bought a wet suit one week before the race. I raced seriously, he smiled for the camera.n1350397913_75918_2901

n1350397913_75922_40171

He threatened to beat me. I laughed…Not this race, baby. nytri-lino

nytripia

Truth is, he could beat me any day IF he trained just a little bit more.

That same year, he convinced me  it was a chance of a lifetime to do New York marathon together. I convinced him to meet up with me after my conference in Geneva and do Amsterdam Marathon. We did both 2 weeks apart. I ran to do my personal best, he ran to capture his first marathon on video.

After crossing the finish line of NY Marathon
After crossing the finish line of NY Marathon
Amsterdam Marathon - it was freezing!
Amsterdam Marathon - it was freezing!

 

The day he returned to Manila was a surprise to me. I was running with my training partner Joey  early one morning and out of the corner of my eye I saw this familiar figure in black sitting on the curb of the road. I started screaming. Joey had no idea why until a few seconds later when he saw Lino.

Lino is now back in  Manila working. It’s harder for him to train when he has shoots. But we text each other daily making plans to meet within the week. He joins me for a swim or a run. Some days, we lie around talking about my work, about his work, about my life and his life. About our dreams of watching my kids become world class athletes. In Boracay over the last weekend, we gave my girls a crash course in volleyball which was both our sport in college.4224_1169839050057_1350397913_473514_6090666_n

Other times we hang together reading our books and ignoring  each other. When he can, he comes over and cooks in my kitchen, eats and hangs with my kids. And we all go to church together.

Lino with my daughters Maxine and Nadine
Lino with my daughters Maxine and Nadine

 

 And yes, we train together whenever we can.

n.b. Ani, Joey and I are convincing him to join the Camsur 70.3. Easy for him to do once he sets his mind to it… and if he had a bike. He left his in New York.

Government Employees Deserve a Better Deal

Our country is in the midst of a health and education crisis. We need to attract and retain the best in the profession. One way to do this is to pay them well.

The Senate and the House each passed their own resolution, which are both referred to as the Salary Standardization Law 3 (SSL 3) which seek to revise the current compensation structure for government employees and increase their pay.

Last week, the sponsor in the Senate, presented a survey showing the Philippines at the lowest end of the scale in terms of monthly salaries of government employees and officials. There are also inconsistencies such as overlapping of salaries between salary grades.

I support the objective of SSL 3. However, during the hearings and upon a more in-depth study of the measure, it became clear to me that the teachers and health workers are not being given their fair share in the increase of salaries.

At the start of my interpellation on the floor, I laid the basis of my appeal for higher wages for health workers and teachers. There are  hospitals in the provinces that have closed down due to the lack of doctors. Hospitals are grossly understaffed and many government nurses are overworked, often working double shifts just to cover the needs of their patients. The same goes with teachers, many of them work double, some even triple shifts.

In the case of the nurses, their current salary grade is Salary Grade (SG) 10, which is equivalent to P12,026 per month. The Nursing Act of 2002 (RA 9173) assigned the starting position of all government nurses at Salary Grade (SG) 15 equivalent to P25,067 per month. Since the law was passed, the nurses have been lobbying for its implementation. Seven years later, this law has yet to be implemented. Now, by virtue of SSL 3, the starting pay of a nurse will be pegged at SG 11 equivalent to P18,088 per month, four salary grades lower than provided for in the Nursing Act!

This is totally unacceptable. We are taking back from our nurses what our previous Congress has accorded them. We are effectively violating their right to non-diminution of compensation, a principle that is deeply ingrained in our labor laws.

With respect to teachers, last year, the Senate passed a bill increasing the salary of teachers by P9,000 over the next three years. But now, under SSL 3, only a P6,500-pay increase to teachers is granted over the next four years.that amounts to an increase of only P1,625 a month each year.

During my interpellation, I also pointed out that there is a gender bias involved here. Studies done internationally and locally show that professions that are traditionally dominated by women, like teaching and nursing, are pegged at a lower salary grade than other professions.

In fact in 1991, the Commission on Education recommended the salary grade of a teacher 1 be SG 17 equivalent to a 1st lieutenant in the Philippine Army. As it is SSL 3, pegs nurses and teachers at SG 11, while a 2nd Lt is at salary grade 19, a difference of almost P10,000. An AFP private’s take home pay is even higher than a teachers. This bias can also seen when compared to other professions. 

The Department of Budget and Management expressed regret that the salaries of these professionals could not be further increased due to lack of funds. But I beg to differ. The total package allocated for the salary increase is P20 Billion. There is P75 Billion in unprogrammed funds. These are funds left to the full discretion of the President. Is it too much to ask to allocate some of these unprogrammed funds for salaries?

Unfortunately, my amendment to increase their salaries were rejected. What was accepted was my amendment that if there is a P50 Billion increase of revenue each year, the government will allocate 5% or P2.5 Billion for the salaries of government employees. Another amendment I pushed for was a salary differencial for Science and Math teachers. This was accepted.

During the deliberations, I also stressed the need to look at the impact on our national development. By continuously depriving our teachers and nurses of just wages, we are also jeopardizing our Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly MDG 2 (achieve universal primary education) and MDG 5 (improve maternal health).

Let me end by saying, it is my position that government should acknowledge that we are in the midst of a health and education crisis. One way to address this is by having competent professionals in these fields. It goes without saying that they should be paid well.

 

 

What Everyone should know about Violence Against Women and Children

Violence comes in many forms. It is not just physical, like a black eye or a swollen face. Other forms of violence are less visible but equally painful and damaging.

Incidents involving video-taping and the posting/circulating of such material  has brought about many questions as to what kind of abuse or violence is punishable.

There is currently no law that specifically punishes the acts of video-taping a sexual or other private act and circulating this content without the consent of the persons involved.  I filed a bill in the senate known as The Anti-Video Voyeurism Act of 2009 that seeks to punish these acts. I hope this will be heard and passed into law soon.

At present though, victims can take refuge in Republic Act 9262 otherwise known as the Anti-violence against Women and Children Act of 2004 which penalizes various forms of violence. A victim can also claim for damages. 

Sometime ago I wrote about my campaign along with women parliamentarians all over the world to end violence, “Say No to Violence Against Women“.

Women Parliamentarians join the campaign to end violence
Women Parliamentarians join the campaign to end violence

 

Many of  my colleagues joined this signature campaign to end violence.

Senators Villar, Honasan and Biazon join the signature campaign to end violence
Senators Villar, Honasan and Biazon and I at the IPU Conference in Geneva. They  joined the signature campaign
Minority Floor Leader and I at the IPU conference in Geneva. He also joined the signature campaign to end violence
Minority Floor Leader and I at the IPU conference in Geneva. He also joined the signature campaign to end violence

 

My office and some local groups we work with conduct seminars to increase awareness on this issue.

Talk on violence in Davao City
Talk on violence in Davao City

 

Below is a partial replication of the Primer on Violence against Women and Children that my office distributes. It includes contact information on where to go for help.

 What are the different acts of violence.

1. Physical violence – acts that include bodily or physical harm;

2.Sexual violence – acts which are sexual in nature;

3.Psychological violence – commission or omission of acts which cause mental or emotional suffering of the victim;

4.Economic abuse – acts that make a woman financially dependent on the offender.

 

Who are protected under the law?

The Anti-VAWC Act protects women and their children, specifically:

1.Wife or former wife of the offender;

2.Woman with whom the offender has or had a dating or sexual relationship;

3.The mother of the child of the offender;

4.The child, whether legitimate or illegitimate of the woman.

 

Who are punished by the law?

The following are liable:

1.Husbands or former husbands;

2.Any person with whom the victim has or had a sexual or dating relationship (e.g. boyfriends, live-in partners, or lesbian partners);

3.Any person with whom the victim has a common child;

4.Father of the child-victim

What can a victim of violence do?

The victim can file any or all of the following:

1.Protection Orders

a.       Barangay Protection Order

b.       Temporary and Permanent Protection Orders

2.Independent Civil Action for Damages

3.Criminal Action for Violation of the Anti-VAWC Act

What is a Barangay Protection Order (BPO)?

A BPO is the protection order issued by the Punong Barangay, or by any kagawad, if the Punong Barangay is unavailable. It commands the offender to refrain or stop from committing or threatening to commit harm to the victim. The Order is valid for only 15 days. 

What is a Permanent Protection Order (PPO)?

A PPO is the Order issued by the court commanding the offender from further committing or threatening to commit harm to the victim. It is issued after notice and hearing wherein the offender is given the opportunity to present his evidence. A PPO is effective until revoked by a court upon application of the victim or by an authorized applicant, if the application was not filed by the victim.

What are the penalties for committing VAWC?

If the courts have proven that the offender is guilty of the crime, he may be imprisoned and will be obliged to pay P100,000 to P300,000 in damages. The length of imprisonment depends on the gravity of the crime.

WHO TO GO TO FOR HELP:

(Updated directory as of 28 November 2012)

• Law enforcement:
National Bureau of Investigation -VAWCD
Tel. (02) 5256028

• Crisis Centers:
Women’s Crisis Center, East Ave. Medical Center
Tels. (02) 5450836

DSWD Crisis Center
Tel. (02) 9517433

Quezon City Hall
Tel. (02) 9271588, 9269344

Women’s Desk Philippine General Hospital
Tel. (02) 5548400 loc. 2536

• Legal Assistance:

Women’s Legal Bureau

Room 505, UP College of Social Work and Community Development (UP-CSWCD)

University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City

Tel. (02) 9214389

Department of Justice Public Attorney’s Office (DOJ PAO)

Tel. (02) 929 9436 loc. 106 & 107

• Counseling:
Gabriela
Tel. (02) 3743452

• Information/Advocacy:
Saligan
Tel. (02) 4266001 loc 4858-60

 

Women need not die from Cervical Cancer

Yesterday, I organized a forum on Cervical Cancer Prevention in the Senate together with Cervical Cancer Prevention Network (CECAP). The objective was to raise awareness about the causes of cervical cancer and how to prevent it.

 

Speaking at the Forum
Speaking at the Forum

We invited various NGOs and women representing different sectors of society to participate in the forum. Our speakers  gave very interesting and informative talks.

Women participants of our forum
Women participants of our forum

 

 After that, the anti-HPV vaccination provided by Glaxo-Smith Kline were given to some of the  women who symbolically represented Filipina women from all walks of life.We had a public school teacher, a police woman, a government employee, a barangay official, a health worker, an OFW, student, a mom, and our special guest, Bianca Gonzales, who was able to keep smiling while she was being vaccinated.

Bianca, the brave girl.
Bianca, the brave girl.

 

 We were all given pink bands with 3 cute icons, meant to be a reminder of the 3 shots that need to be completed.

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After the Forum, I delivered a privilege speech. I mentioned that a  year ago I conducted a hearing on cervical cancer and  expressed hope that my colleagues would support the bill on this.Unlike other cancers,  cervical cancer is preventable. According to CECAP, 99% of cases it is caused by the HPV virus that is transmitted sexually.  With increased awareness, we could prevent the death of women from cervical cancers.

with Bianca and my staff in the gallery just before session started
with Bianca and my staff in the gallery just before session started

As part of my commitment to women’s health and prevention of cervical cancer, my public funds were used to purchase equipment for PGH, including a colposcope which is a complete diagnostic and therapeutic facility pr premalignant diseases of the cervix.

Facts about Cervical Cancer (Data from DOH, CECAP)

Next to breast cancer, cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer killer among Filipina women. For every 3 Filipinas diagnosed, 1 will die within the year.

This high death rate is mainly due to late detection and lack of awareness.

What causes cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is transmitted sexually. It may not develop into cancer for as long as 10-20 years from infection. About 80% of women will be infected with HPV in their lifetime. It is the most common sexually transmitted viral infection.

However a strong immunity can help prevent cervical cancer from developing. This would include a healthy lifestyle which means exercise, good nutrition and a lifetime of mutual monogamy with one’s partner.  Those at high risk are: those who smoke, those who started sexual activity at an nearly age, those with multiple sexual partners and  previous sexually transmitted infections.

Aside from a healthy lifestyle, a woman should also have regular pap smear tests every 3 years from the time she becomes sexually active but not later than 21 years. There is also vaccination that is now  available to women.  

A study was recently conducted by UP-DOH showing that a visual examination of the cervix aided by acetic acid wash is a cost-effective screening method for cervical cancer.

This is an option that can be made available to women who cannot afford to get a pap-smear, and is one of the projects that I am embarking on at the barangay level with CECAP.

 

My Mom, the wind beneath my wings

 

My mom, when she was in college
My mom, when she was in college

 

 

My mom grew up on a farm in Michigan. She met my dad when they were both studying in the University of Michigan. A few years later, she left the only country she knew and migrated to the Philippines, a country with a different culture, lacking in modern facilities that she was accustomed to, not knowing anyone from here except my dad and his parents.

 

My mom and dad in 1968
My mom and dad in 1968

 

I often wonder what it was like for her, a young 24  year old woman to leave for the unknown.  All she really had was my dad and me.

She was pretty much on her own most of the time. My dad worked long hours as a lawyer. It was just me and my mom most of the day. My life revolved around her.

She had a profound influence on me in my formative years. If I looked at my dad as the omnipotent being (translation: disciplinarian, law enforcer), my mom was omnipresent.

She took me everywhere she went – to her school, to the store, to the market, to her dressmaker and the salon. My childhood is replete  with memories of doing art work, reading and writing on the floor while my mom worked on her lesson plans and prepared her class materials. I don’t really remember being away from her.

Her demeanor, her kindness,  the way she talked, all of these things set my standard for dealing with people. If she ever got frustrated or lost her temper, she must have hidden it from me, because I really don’t recall any incident.

Looking back, she also set my standards as a working mom. As a preschool teacher, she spent her days either in her school or working on her school projects at home. My mom taught and later owned her own preschool. I was her student in Marymount in Quezon City, then JUSMAG school. Later, she put up her own school Ann Arbor School in Quezon Avenue where I also studied.  A few years later, she opened Ann Arbor Montessori in BF Homes. I spent many summers playing there and enjoying the Montessori materials.

For the first four and half years, I was her only child. Then my brother Alan was born, but I never felt a diminution in her attention or affection. Years later, my brothers Ren and Lino were born and that still did not change anything between my mom and I.

These days, it’s my turn to be a working mom.  And my mom? She is still a teacher and the consummate grandmother. She does not run a school anymore, but she devotes a good chunk of her time to my children.

When my first child, Maxie was born, she spent most of her day with my mom, while I worked. My mom would even take her to my office, so I could breastfeed her. Today, she spends a good number of hours a week with my younger daughter Nadine helping her with her school work. When I’m out of the country or just stuck at work, she takes them to the doctor, out for pizza, to  the book store or wherever they ask or need to be taken.

She is also a passionate writer of children’s books and to date has written hundreds of books, many of which she have given away to public schools.img_2759

My mom held my hand each day I lived thru my son Gabriel’s illness. She was strong, when I was weak. She was optimistic, when I saw no hope. When my dad got sick, she held us together. 

In my work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we often discuss issues involving women in the labor force and the challenges women  face balancing their responsibilities as homemakers, caregivers and workers. One of the recommendations is for women to rely on their support system, such as extended families.

How grateful I truly am that I have my mom who has supported me thru the years, as a child and even now. 

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