They comprise the minority but the 85 women legislators in the House of Representatives dominated the chamber putting the 222 male solons on the sidelines as they took turns in delivering speeches, passing legislation and taking care of plenary proceedings on Monday, March 8.
Congresswomen were given control of the Lower House as part of the celebration of the International Women’s Day, that is the main highlight for the commemoration of the National Women’s Month.
The all-women session adopted resolutions expressing the chamber’s congratulations to two Filipino-American appointees of United States President Joe Biden—Gloria Dino-Steele and Camille Calimlim Touton.
Authored by Deputy Speaker Rose Marie Arenas and Pangasinan Rep. Christopher De Venecia, House Resolution 1625 lauded the appointment of Calimlim-Touton as deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.
On the other hand, HRs 1613 also introduced by Arenas, commended Dino-Steele for her appointment as administrator of the United States International Assistance for Development.
Arenas, president of the Association of Women Legislators Foundation Inc., was first to preside over the session which gave way to privilege speeches delivered by other members of the foundation.
Before this, Bukidnon Rep. Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba, chairperson of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality, hosted the flag ceremony.
In an inspirational message, veteran Negros Oriental legislator, Rep. Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong urged women to take more active leadership roles in the society.
“We should never be afraid to speak out. Huwag tayong mananahimik. (Let us not keep silent) We have our own voices. We should never lose them,” she said.
Delivering privileges underscoring the achievements, problems and other issues facing women were Reps. Amihilda Sangcopan (Anak Mindanao Partylist); Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan Partylist); Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna); Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Partylist); Liandia Bolilia (Batangas); Geraldine Roman (Bataan) and Acosta-Alba, among others.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco paid tribute Filipino women for playing pivotal roles in f nation-building even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the past year, COVID-19 has changed the world and affected us all, but the impact of the crisis has been particularly significant for women,” Velasco said.
“As we continue to face the worst public health crisis in a generation, let us pause for a moment to pay tribute to all the women of this country for their resilience and invaluable contributions to society and nation,” he added.
There are eight female legislators elected as deputy speakers. They are Deputy Speakers Evelina Escudero (Sorsogon, 1st District), Loren Legarda (Antique, Lone District), Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Party-list), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur, 2nd District), Divina Grace Yu (Zamboanga del Sur, 1st District), Camille Villar (Las Piñas City, Lone District), Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas (Pangasinan, 3rd District), and Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas, 6th District).
Meanwhile, Legarda, a three-term senator, underscored the need to invest in economic empowerment that would allow women to play a more active role in an inclusive and equitable growth and recovery amid the pandemic.
Legarda said that, while the Philippines was recognized by the World Economic Forum as the best performing country in Asia in terms of closing gender gaps, she hopes to see a country that does not only empower women’s rights but also provides easy access to economic opportunities.
“As we continue to promote gender equality and alleviate gender-based violence and discrimination, let us also recognize the important role that our women play in pursuing economic development. We have already enacted laws against various forms of violence, discrimination and abuse. We must give equal importance in providing women better access and control over resources that they need to be empowered economically,” Legarda said.