Malacanang came out with a statement yesterday on Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s recent Global Women’s Progress Report, which ranked the best and worst countries in the world for women. The Palace was very glad to note that the Philippines placed 17th out of the the 165 countries included, and was the only Asian nation with a spot in the top 20. Local media, of course, lapped it all up, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if individual politicians use this bit of news to bolster their opinions and agendas. The following chunks of the Malacanang statement, in particular, are bound to be quoted ’til kingdom come:
“Garnering an overall score of 86.3 out of 100, our country scored highest in the areas of education (92.2), economics (89.1), and justice (88.4).”
“This is an affirmation of the respect our culture has always accorded to Filipino women—one that manifests itself as well in our government’s efforts to promote equal gender opportunities in all spheres of public policies and programs. “
Many would see the whole statement as a very heartening bit of news (and likely another easy excuse to be “proud to be Pinoy”). But the thing is, it’s only a whopping 142 words long. It only highlighted the bits in the report that sounded brag-worthy, didn’t bother to place the data into context, and kept out significant results in the study. It is, for the most part, a grossly misleading statement, and Malacanang should have known better than to trumpet it about.
A 92 in education, an 89 in economics, and an 88 in justice. Music to your ears, right? And yes, if you compare the Philippines to, say, Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive; or to Pakistan, where a thousand women each year are murdered in the name of “honor;” or to Somalia, where almost all women undergo genital mutilation, then yes, it would seem just about right.
The problem is, just because we’re better off than other countries doesn’t make us a stellar, shining beacon for women’s rights just yet. We still have a long, long, long way to go, and the worst thing we can possibly do is to rest on our so-called laurels. How can we be proud of ourselves now when women still can’t break free from their tortuous, torturous marriages through divorce? When women are still sexually molested by priests, who in turn cower in the shadows of their bishop’s cloaks? When women are still denied the ability to learn more about their own reproductive system, and decide how to plan their families? When 11 women a day die from maternal complications?
Unlike what the carefully crafted Palace statement implies, the Philippines is not exactly a safe haven for women. We still have a lot of shit to deal with. It’s so easy for the public to misconstrue the abovementioned numbers, and Malacanang should have clarified things further.
Health, held up
Going back to our women’s being denied reproductive rights, it is also incredibly important to note that the Malacanang statement left out our score in a very crucial criterion: Health. We scored a sickly 57 points in this category — the lowest amongst the top 20 countries, with the rest scoring in the 80s and 90s. And why the low score? Let’s take a look at what constitutes good health in this report:
-Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19)
-Maternal mortality rate (maternal deaths per 100,000 live births)
-Contraceptive prevalence (percentage of women ages 15-49)
-Proportion of women with unmet need for family planning (aged 15-49)
-Proportion of women attended at least once by skilled health personnel during pregnancy
-HIV incidence rate
-Proportion of women receiving antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV
-Number of unsafe abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44
-Whether abortion is legal:
To save woman’s life
To preserve physical health
To preserve mental health
In cases of rape/incest
In cases of fetal impairment
Economic or social reasons
With the exception of the abortion segment and anti-retroviral drugs, every one of these factors could be easily addressed with the passage of the Reproductive Health bill — a bill that can’t seem to make any progress thanks in great part to the tag-teaming between Catholic bishops and nincompoops in the Senate.
It must be noted that the Palace also recently made a statement in favor of putting the bill to a vote already. This statement was made last Wednesday, September 21st, the same day the other statement about the Global Women’s Progress Report was made. It’s such a shame that they didn’t lift the Health facts from the Progress Report to bolster the other statement. Then again, why should we expect this from an institution that always seems preoccupied with aggrandizing itself?
PR and the Palace
At this point in our country’s history, our government should stop publicly patting itself on the back and justifying such actions as a way to lift the nation’s spirits. There is harm in too much PR. If Malacanang really is behind ending this RH brouhaha once and for all, then they should stop withholding information from the public, and stop making such damningly misleading statements.
To anyone who read the statement and felt absolutely ecstatic over it, hold your horses. The words on the page and the world out your window can be two very different things. We have to stop this inane cycle of being so (naively) proud of our country that we become complacent, suffering the consequences of our negligence, an cheering ourselves up with more, and even emptier, reasons to take pride in our nation.