Entering Local Politics
I hold a bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English. I am a mother of four children aged between 21 and 25, all of whom are in college. I am married to the chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, previously he was also Mayor of Olongapo, as were his father and mother.
Originally I was a reluctant candidate for representative in congress of the First District of Zambales. Eventually, I did enter the political field upon encouragement by my husband and friends, and won the congressional seat against three male candidates. After two terms as Congresswoman I ran for Mayor and won. I decided to enter local politics because I knew I could supply the leadership and guidance necessary to make this city one of the best in the country.
My responsibilities as Mayor entail general supervision and control over all programs, projects, services and activities of the City Government. I determine the guidelines of city policies together with the city council and ensure that laws and ordinance are properly implemented. I initiate and propose legislation to the city council for the benefit and welfare of the city's residents.
A Woman's Perspective
Rather than acting as a hindrance, I believe being a woman opened certain doors of opportunity to me, when first entering politics. For example, I was able to approach mothers because I am also a mother; I could relate to young people, having four young children of my own; and men were relatively easy to approach once they saw that I was sincere and determined to serve the people well.
Once in office, there was only one instance when I felt I faced difficulties specifically due to my gender. When I was a congresswoman, a congressman repeatedly derided my efforts to keep order in my constituency in the First District of Zambales . This was in the wake of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. I am happy to state that I got the upper hand in that struggle.
At present I do not feel any discrimination on account of my being a woman, if anything I think it has helped me to strengthen the ties between the city government and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority which is headed by my husband, Richard J. Gordon. I am able to add the feminine touch to the task of being a host for guest investors at the Subic Bay Free Port. As a lady Mayor I am able to add a feminine touch to the city's administration, particularly in improving and beautifying the community.
In an effort to increase female participation in the city I have supported an organization called Balikatan Ladies of Olongapo Movement (BLOOM). I organized this group even before I was in government. This is a group of enthusiastic volunteers who assist in government hospitals, in clean up campaigns all over the city, and in serving in medical and dental missions. Through this scheme many women have become very aware of how they can make a difference in the community. They lead in government drives and support government initiatives which has resulted in an overall heightened awareness of issues that push progress in the city. Women being the prime movers in volunteer work, have earned fresh respect from the community. BLOOM can also lead to possibilities in governmental work
Another initiative my administration has undertaken to improve the general status of women in Olongapo has been the establishment of women's desks in police precincts in the City . These women's desks, with female police administrating them, have made it easier for women victims to file complaints for such cases as rape, assault, etc.
As a woman in government I am happy to be able to do something to improve the lives of children who live in difficult circumstances. Our UNICEF assisted program for street children has allowed us to send children to school who otherwise could not afford the expense involved. We have livelihood programmes to help the families of children who are undernourished and we have the Bantay Bats program that aims to protect children from abuse and harm.
Breaking Down The Barriers
Women need to take an active role in the governance of cities. I believe that women are naturally compassionate and soft hearted and bring a maternal influence to government proceedings. Our voices are heard as sobering influences in discussions and we tone down the natural harshness of measures proposed by men. The female factor balances the situation. I also believe that increasing the number of women with power in local government will have a direct effect on the status of women, as women's concerns will be given more attention, issues such as battered wives, rape victims, and employment discrimination.
One factor that may restrict women from entering politics is the heavy expense of campaigns for office, considering that women generally earn less than men. It would help to normalize the process if there are stringent restrictions in the use of campaign materials and strict regulation on campaign expenses.
It is the responsibility of women leaders that female participation in politics is not hampered. However, it should not be the sole item on the agenda of women government workers. Women in government should be concerned with the welfare of the community in general.
People's perception of women in politics has changed for the better over the past 10 years. Proof of this is the increased number of women being elected to government positions and the respect accorded to their decisions. In my case, the department heads under my supervision recognize my authority. The same is true for our Vice Mayor, also a woman, who presides over the city council. Out of the city's ten councilors, three are women.
I consider that my best accomplishment in office so far has been the mobilization of government machinery for a general face-lifting of the city. Also under my direction, tax revenues have increased through incentives collection from delinquent taxpayers. Right now the priority project of the city is an extensive expansion of the Subic Bay Free Port to cover the city proper. Infrastructure as well as landscaping is needed to put the city on par with the freeport. We are also settling property documentation rights to ensure that the city government property is all legally titled.