Have you spent enough time studying all the Philippine senatorial candidates for 2019? Isn’t it crazy that there are only 11 women running for a seat out of the 62 approved candidates? While many of them are household names and have served terms in different branches of the government, some are newcomers who are hoping to see a change in the current system.
Get to know these female senatorial hopefuls, their accomplishments, controversies, and their stances on the country’s most polarizing issues.
Independent and Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi
Candidate Evangeline “Vangie” Roche Abejo, a Cebuana who studied Chemical Engineering at the University of San Jose – Recoletos and at the University of Cebu, may come from a different background, but it appears she has always served the poor. Her affiliations include the Alliance for National Urban Poor Organizations Assembly, Inc., Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi, Koalisyon ng mga Maralita-Cebu Chapter, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita-Cebu, and Nasudnong Katawhang Kabus Konpederasyon.
Vangie has also served in the executive arm of the government as the Vice-Chairperson for Visayas’ National Anti-Poverty Commission-National Urban Poor Sector Council. She is also the focal person of the National Anti-Poverty Commission in Cebu.
This engineer is pro-federalism and she also plans to incorporate of the study of Christianity through the Bible in the curriculums of Philippine schools.
In various interviews, she has also mentioned that she will push for food security, financial literacy, and people’s participation on good governance from the local to the national level.
Sources: Evangeline Roche Abejo Facebook Profile, Rama walks out of hearing (manilastandard.net), Con-com spox, 11 party mates file COCs for senators (inquirer.net), National Anti-Poverty Commission, Protesters hurl tomatoes at DTI and DOLE offices (philstar.com), Cebu indigents urged to propose anti-poverty programs (pna.gov.ph), 32 families asked to vacate city lot (philstar.com)
United Nationalist Alliance
In 2013, Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Sombillo Binay from the Binay clan ran for senate and people pointed out that she was merely her father’s secretary and had no other credentials. She then became the subject of many social media memes accusing her of having no experience in politics.
Fast forward to several years later and she is now serving her second term in the Senate, where she is the chairperson of the Senate Committees on Tourism, Cultural Communities, and Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development in the ongoing 17th Congress. Nancy is also the co-chairperson of the Joint Oversight Committee on Tourism and one of the vice chairpersons of the Energy Committee and a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
During her first term in Senate, she filed 119 bills and 151 resolutions advocating the interests of women and children, the youth, the elderly, and housing for the poor. Her three bills that became law are: An Act Repealing the Crime of Premature Marriage under Article 251 of the Revised Penal Code, Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015, and An Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of Persons with Disability. For the 17th Congress, she co-sponsored the Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017 and the Filipino Sign Language Act.
During debates, Nancy cleared her stance on certain issues such as the divorce bill. She said that she opposes it but she agrees to amending the current annulment process. Despite having family members in public service, she also agrees to pass the Anti-Dynasty bill. She also votes yes to the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Martial Law extension in Mindanao, the TRAIN Law, and the Anti-Discrimination Bill. However, she is against same-sex marriage.
Pilar Juliana “Pia” S. Cayetano comes from a family of politicians. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of the Philippines Diliman and Bachelor of Laws from the same university, she started her career in public service.
She has served two terms as senator and during her term, she has been a prominent advocate of the rights of women, children, and the elderly. Aside from this, she also served as the Representative of the Second District of Taguig from 2016.
Some of her important legislations include the RA 10354 Reproductive Health Law, the RA 10351 Sin Tax Reform Act, the RA 10643 Graphic Health Warning Act, the RA 10699 National Athletes, Coaches and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act, and the RA 10648 “Iskolar ng Bayan” Act.
Other notable bills include the RA 11166 Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, RA 9710 Magna Carta of Women, RA 9502 Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act, RA 9512 Environmental Awareness and Education Act, among others.
Her current platform continues to focus on the rights of women and children, reproductive health, sports, healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition, as well as increased tobacco taxation. She also advocates for a comprehensive HIV-AIDS policy, affordable and quality drugs, or as summarized by her slogan, “Presyo, Trabaho, Kita.”
During her time in the legislative branch of the government, her most recent positions are: Chairperson of Philippine Senate Committee on Health and Demography, the Chairperson of the Philippine Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations, Chairperson of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Clean Water Act of 2004, and Chairperson of Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Senate of the Philippines. Pia was also the President of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians Inter-Parliamentary Union.
She is also a member of various groups such as Pinay In Action, Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation, Inc., and Compañero Rene Cayetano Foundation.
In interviews and debates, she has advocated for divorce, federalism, and death penalty. She is against the Bangsamoro Basic Law. During the term of Rodrigo Duterte, she has been heavily criticized for not speaking up against the president despite her earlier stance for women’s rights.
Sources: Pia Cayetano Profile, Retrieved from Legislative Documents (Bills 13th to 16th Congress), (senate.gov.ph), Where do 2019 senatorial bets stand on key national issues? (Rappler)
Independent, affiliated with Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi
Bukidnon resident Agnes Nieva “Puso Bae” Escudero may just be 44 years old but she is already the Secretary-General of the Tribal Government of the Philippines. She is also actively involved in the Federation of Tribal Youth Councils, Bukidnon Women and Youth Organization.
A graduate of BS Chemistry from Adamson University, she also studied Public Administration from the Irene B. Antonio College of Mindanao. Currently, she is finishing her MA in Management degree at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. Aside from all these education credentials, she is also a TESDA-certified massage therapist.
According to her social media publicity posts, if elected senator, she will advocate for women, children, and indigenous people. She also pushes for “Strengthening Philippine Defense through Spirituality.”
It’s no surprise that senatorial candidate Samira Ali Gutoc-Tomawis from Marawi City heavily focuses her campaign on the development of an inclusive Mindanao. As a Former Member of the ARMM Legislative Assembly, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, and the Philippine Army Multi-sectoral Advisory Board, she advocates for the Bangsamoro Organic Law and opposes the Martial Law in Mindanao.
Samira was the Director of the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines and a Founding Member of the Asian Peace Alliance. Aside from this, she is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Peace Research Association, the former President of the Muslim Youth and Student Alliance-Manila, a Convenor of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, former President of the UP Muslim Students Association and former Mindanao coordinator of the Young Moro Professionals Network.
In debates, she has also been vocal against the war on drugs and federalism. Samira has also supported the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Her other proposed policies include women’s rights and empowerment, youth protection, rights of internally displaced persons, and LGBTQ+ rights.
For her education, she got a Communication degree from the University of the Philippines, Diliman and her MA in International Studies from the same university. She finished her Bachelor of Laws at Arellano University and she is also a Fellow of the Oxford Center of Islamic Studies.
Sources: CNN Philippines Twitter, GMA News Facebook Page, "People on the fringes like us cannot participate fully. We are always seen as nuisance." -Samira Gutoc, Senatorial Candidate (Esquire), Samira Ali Gutoc-Tomawis (pcid.com.ph), Samira Gutoc Facebook note
Independent affiliated with Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi
Hailing from Tuguegarao, Cagayan, this 48-year-old has never held a position in government but she has been active in several socio-civic and religious organizations.
She is the Founder-President and Chairman of the Board of the Victorious Children of Mary Enthroned as well as the Founder and Chairperson of the Board ng Konseho ng mga Espiritual sa Rehiyon Dos Multi-Purpose Cooperative. She is also the Secretary-General of the Federation of National Greening Program People's Organization of Isabela and the Board of Trustee and National Treasurer ng Pamathalaan ng Buhay (PNB), Inc.
Her other affiliated groups include the Republika ng Mamamayang Pilipino, Kamalayang Pinoy Movement, Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi (Katipunan) Party.
The primary focus of her campaign can easily be remembered by an acrostic she made using her name:
E - Edukasyon sa Kabataan
M - Maayos na Pamahalaan
I - Ina ng Bayan
L - Lulunasan ang Kahirapan
Y - Yaman ng Bansa ay Aalagaan
During the debates and various media interviews, she has actively advocated for federalism, calling it the only solution to all our country’s problems. She is also in favor of death penalty for corrupt government officials and regulating social media. However, she is not in favor of Train Law, mining, and using emergency powers to solve the traffic problem in the metro.
Sources: Facebook Profile: Emily T. Mallillin (Retrieved February 20, 2019), Emily Mallillin Stand on Issues (Rappler Twitter), Senate Race New Names Support Duterte Policies (philstar.com), Emily Mallillin Sumalang sa Fast Talk (ABS-CBN News)
Maria Imelda Josefa Romualdez “Imee” Marcos’ senatorial bid has been marred with controversy since it started. More specifically, her educational attainment from the University of the Philippines and Princeton University have been questioned. Aside from this, she has consistently avoided and downplayed her role during her father’s regime and Martial Law. Most notably, her alleged involvement in the murder of student leader Archimedes Trajano.
Despite these issues, she has a track record for public service, including being the Representative for the Second District of Ilocos Norte, where she also serves as the incumbent Governor.
Her legislative work includes her participation in the passage of certain bills, which include HB 620, an act providing for a Magna Carta of Students, HB 694, an act providing for the fair and equitable allocation of the department and education culture and sports items for teaching and non-teaching positions, and HB 1092, an act creating the Philippine commission on women, defining its power, function and responsibilities, appropriating funds therefore, and for other purposes.
Imee is pro-federalism and pro-death penalty. She has also mentioned in several interviews that she also advocates for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Her platform focuses on the suspension of value-added tax (VAT) on agricultural and medicinal products, plus gasoline; the expansion of Philippine entertainment industry; higher ethanol blend in car fuel; wider availability of Wi-Fi.
Sources: Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar are Nacionalista's 2019 (ABS-CBN News), Where do 2019 Senatorial Candidates Stand on key national issues? (Ronald Gem Celestial #Halalan2019), Governor Imee Marcos pushes for new creative industry charter (pna.gov.ph), Higher ethanol blend can keep fuel prices low – Imee Marcos (inquirer.net), How Imee Marcos got away from paying $4M in damages for Trajano death (Rappler), A Dynasty on Steroids (smh.com.au)
Independent, affiliated with Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi
37-year-old Joan Sheelah Nalliw from Mayoyao, Ifugao may be one of the youngest candidates but her platform has a clear focus that can be remembered by 5 K’s: K-atutubo, K-abataan, K-alikasan, K-ultura, and K-apatiran.
A graduate of Criminology from the University of the Cordilleras, she has also studied at Saint Mary's University where she got her Innovative Master in Public Administration and Bachelor of Laws.
Her affiliations include the Pochon Youth Group and the Parish Youth Ministry of the Our Lady of Assumption, Mayoyao, Ifugao. She was also the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative of the Sangguniang Bayan ng Mayoyao.
She was an awardee of the 2008 Panibagong Paraan Award, the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO).
Before being a senator, Grace Poe was most known for being the daughter of National Artist Fernando Poe Jr. and veteran actress Susan Roces.
She finished her studies at the University of the Philippines and Boston College in Massachusetts, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Political Science.
Following the death of her father, she ran for Senate in 2013, where she garnered the highest number of votes of more than 20 million.
She started working as the chairperson of the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, where she advocated for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. She is also the first female senator to serve as chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs. As chair of the Movie and Television Regulatory and Classification Board (MTRCB), she also advocated “intelligent media viewership” instead of “censorship.”
During the most recent debates, Grace made her stance known on divorce by saying that she is against it but that she is not against amending the annulment process. She voted no to death penalty but voted yes to TRAIN Law but recognizes that it has flaws. She also voted yes to Bangsamoro Basic Law, the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao, to the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill, and the Anti-Discrimination Bill.
Lady Ann Sahidulla
Nur-Ana “Lady Ann” Indanan Sahidulla is a candidate from Indanan, Sulu who took her tertiary education in Zamboanga AE Colleges in 1980 and Western Mindanao State University in 1998.
She is the Founder of Anak Ilo Foundation and the current Chairperson of the Philippine National Red Cross, Sulu Chapter.
She started serving the country as the Mayor of the Municipality of Banguingui, Sulu from 1998 to 2004. She then became the Vice-Governor of Sulu from 2004 to 2010. From the executive branch of the government, she transitioned to the legislative arm as the Representative of Sulu’s 2nd District from 2010 to 2013.
She is a staunch advocate of the Reproductive Health Bill and her policies focus on disaster risk reduction and mitigation, improving Sulu’s marine economic safety, and wage increase for workers.
In 2009, she was also involved in the negotiations for the release of an Italian Red Cross worker who was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf. However, her actions were questioned by the Philippine National Police, who suspected that ransom money was given to the terrorists.
Her husband may have a longer track record in politics but in case people have forgotten, Cynthia Villar has already served one term as a senator. She was also a former District Representative at the House of Representatives for the 12th, 13th, and 14th Congress.
Her platform emphasizes the need for more livelihood projects for the poor which is aligned with her work for the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance.
Her legislative work includes her involvement in the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Republic Act No. 10816 – Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016, among others.
During debates and in various interviews, she has been vocal against divorce, federalism, and the death penalty. On the other hand, she agrees to the TRAIN Law, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, an extension of the Martial Law in Mindanao, and Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, University of the Philippines – Diliman and she took her Masters in Business Administration at New York University. She was also given an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in University of the Philippines – Los Baños. She was the former President of the group Lady Legislators and an honorary member of the Philippine Horticultural Society.
In 2018, advocacy group Campaign for Land Use Policy NOW accused Cynthia of abusing her power as the chairperson of the senate committees on agriculture and food, agrarian reform, and environment and natural resources, to favor family-owned Vista Land. And in 2013, she was embroiled in another controversy when she said that nurses do not need to finish their degrees since they only wanted to be caretakers or “room nurses.”
Sources: Cynthia Villar As Congresswoman (cynthiavillar.com.ph), Cynthia Villar As Senator (cynthiavillar.com.ph), How 7 reelectionist senators voted on key issues, bills (Rappler), Where do 2019 senatorial bets stand on key national issues? (Rappler), Cynthia Villar seeks second term (philstar.com), Senate of the Philippines: Senator Cynthia A. Villar (senate.gov.ph), Cynthia Villar Answers Allegations Against Vista Land (Rappler), Cynthia Villar Apologizes for Room Nurse Remark