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    Q&A at St. Scholastica’s College Manila

    15 March 2017

    Q: What is your stand on the existing policies and law protecting women and are they enough po? And what other policies and laws will be beneficial to women in the near future? VP Leni: Thank you for the question. You know, there are not enough policies yet for women. When I was a member of Congress, we were trying to pass, um, legislations that would correct the imbalance of men and women in society. There are so many examples of this. But one such example is the law on adultery and concubinage. You know, concubinage is a crime committed by a married, married man, who has relations with another woman not her husband. Ang adultery naman is a crime committed by a married woman who has relations with another man not her husband. But the requirements of both crimes are not the same. It is much easier to convict women for adultery and so much harder to convict men for concubinage. We have been pushing for a law that will equalize the same, we have been pushing for law that will just make it sexual infidelity to equalize the same, but that law has not yet been passed. So there are so many laws out there, we don’t have a lot of time but we still have a lot of laws where women are treated differently from men. And we hope that, um, laws to amend those inequalities will be passed. Just recently I don’t know if you watched the news, but there was a bill approved in the Senate where women, women’s maternity leave will be extended already, I don’t know if you saw that. Because the current laws just give 60 days maternity leave for women. Um, the bill now is to increase it to 120 days. And it’s, you know, it will be very beneficial for women, um, in the sense that mothers will be given more time to take care of the baby. And not only that, fathers are also given a longer paternity leave. Because the current paternity leave, I think is only 7 days, the proposal is to extend it to 30 days. And I think it is also beneficial to women in the sense that women should not take the sole burden of taking care of the baby, but the father should also be given that same burden. So maraming marami pa. There is still so much to hope for. We have existing laws on, let’s say, declaration of nullity of marriage, which is not beneficial to women especially if women are poor. Um, it’s accessible only to women who have the capacity to pay for lawyers, psychologists, um, people who will, um, conduct psychological exams, but not accessible to the poor who will not have money for it. So we feel that amendments to the law should be passed, in order for these privileges to be accessible no matter what state of, state in life you are in.

    Q: What sector of women should the government prioritize most in policy making? VP Leni: What?

    Q: What sector of women po? VP Leni: You know, um, I won’t call it sector of women, but I think government should provide for more, should give more help to women who are less privileged, in the sense that, um, these are women who do not have access to many of the, you know, many of the programs of government which are accessible to some. Example, um, we have laws that provide for livelihood opportunities, but if you look at what most of us are doing to help women have access to livelihood, karamihan sa tulong are only in the form of skills trainings. Skills trainings nang skills trainings, but they do not help women have access to markets. So, there are so many non-government organizations helping women’s groups, but they just teach skills trainings. But those skills trainings do not ripen into real livelihood opportunities for women. And that’s what we’re trying to correct under our Angat Buhay program. What we’re doing under Angat Buhay is not being contented with just providing for capability trainings, or skills trainings, but making sure that what we trained them for can be converted into actual livelihood opportunities because economic empowerment especially to the less privileged women in our society spells or opens the doors to many other freedoms. If you were listening to my speech earlier, while I was still a human rights lawyer that was my number one problem. Abused women would prefer to go back to their abusers because they are economically dependent on them. So even if they know that they’ve been abused already but they also know that they cannot take care of the children on their own, they would rather go back to an abusive environment rather than fight for their rights. But you know when they would be, when they are economic empowered they will be on a better position to say this has got to stop I won’t tolerate this. Because otherwise, even if we talk on many forums on gender equality, pag walang pangkain, walang pampaaral sa kanilang mga anak, wala din ang usapin ng gender equality so I think that government should give more emphasis on helping women become more economically independent.

    Q: What is your opinion on the fact that they removed rape as one of the crimes punishable by death on the death penalty bill? VP Leni: You know I don’t really care about what crimes are punishable by death. Whether it’s just, it’s just drugs or rape or whatever but I am against death penalty altogether. My feeling is that and it’s not just because we are Catholics. It’s not just because as Catholics we do not believe that it is the right of any person to take the life of another person into their own hands, but also because if you look at empirical data there is nothing there that suggests that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. That is number one. We had death penalty in the past and if you look at all the statistics, it does not show that during those times that we had death penalty, crime rates went down. That is number one and number two, I think it’s anti-poor. If you look at all the convicts, those who suffered the penalty of death before, all of them come from very poor families and one reason for that is that they do not have access to good legal services. Yung mga mayayaman hindi nakakarating sa death penalty kasi may pambayad ng mahuhusay na abogado pero yung mga mahihirap sometimes they are even innocent but because they are not given good legal support, nakakarating sila sa death penalty. Number three, I have been a human rights lawyer for a long time and I believe that our criminal justice system is such that it does not believe that penalties should be for retribution. Penalties should be for rehabilitation and reintegration. We always believe that anyone of us commits mistakes but those who commit mistakes would have to pay for those mistakes. But in paying for those mistakes, they should be given a chance to reform again. They should be given a chance to be reintegrated back to society again so whether or not rape is there. Whether or not drug cases are there or whatever plunder is there, death is still not, it’s still a no for me.

    Posted in Transcripts on Mar 14, 2017