Promises Unfulfilled, Change Unperceived: A Country Report on Filipino Women in the Time of Neoliberalism

March 2017

The toiling Filipino women anticipated a qualitative change when the new administration of Rodrigo Roa Duterte came into power in May 2016, replacing the callous, incompetent, corrupt, and elitist government of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III. Thus, women have forwarded an agenda last July 2016 to the new president, encompassing political, socio-economic, and cultural aspects that they deemed necessary to uplift them from poverty and subjugation.

Initially, the new government gave pro-people pronouncements such as ending contractualization, granting free education, providing services to the poor and to farmers, stopping demolitions, among others. President Duterte even included known leaders of the people’s organizations in his Cabinet. He immediately ordered the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

However, women express concern when President Duterte and his economic technocrats presented the government’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda that brings into play a similar neoliberal framework of the Aquino administration. The socioeconomic agenda includes continuation of macroeconomic policies, progressive tax reform and collection, increasing competitiveness and ease of doing business including relaxation of Constitutional restrictions, accelerating annual infrastructure spending through public-private partnerships, promotion of rural enterprise and rural tourism, ensuring security of land tenure to encourage investments, investing in human capital development to meet the demand of businesses, promotion of science and technology and creative arts, improving social protection programs including conditional cash transfer, and strengthening the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law.

Through the years, the Philippine economy with a neoliberal or “free market” framework has only kept the country underdeveloped. Because of such framework, women have experienced depressed wages, vanished job security, declined living standards, among others. Women are more likely than men to be unemployed or to be contributing family workers, which usually implies that they have no access to monetary income.[ii] With the Duterte government’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, women could hardly see a change in their semi-slave condition.

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