By Catherine Faith Hoggang and Ma. Daniella Borrero
Aimed at understanding the role women play in Philippine Media, a forum entitled “Women Talk Back: We are not All Vagina” was held on March 8, 2018 at UP College of Mass Communication in celebration of the International Women’s Day.
To create a comprehensive understanding on the current situation of women in media, the forum was divided into two panels that bridge the timeline before EDSA and the transition to after EDSA and the present-day challenges.
Facilitating the flow of discussion were Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) Executive Director Melinda Quintos de Jesus who moderated the first panel, and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) Executive Director Malou Mangahas for the second panel.
Standing up to the Marcos Regime: Before EDSA and Transition
The first panel was comprised of the following veteran journalists: Jo-Ann Maglipon (Editor-in-Chief of YES! Magazine, and Editorial Director of Summit Media), Ma. Ceres P. Doyo (columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and board member of the Office of Women and Gender Concerns of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines), and Cheche Lazaro (President of Probe Productions, Inc.).
They talked about the role of women in the struggle for press freedom in the context of Martial law. They also shared their personal experiences as part of the alternative or “mosquito press”, the independent media who reported on news censored by the Marcos regime.
One notable experience was the 1983 interrogation of eight women journalists, two of whom were Jo-Ann Maglipon and Ma. Ceres Dayo, by the Special Committee No. 2 of the National Intelligence Board in Fort Bonifacio.
Ms. Ceres Dayo was the first to be interrogated. She narrated how she was “quaking” in her shoes, nervous of what lay before her. “I don’t know where I got the guts to ask”, Ms. Dayo said, “but before the interrogation began, I asked them (i.e. the military officers) for their names”. The military officers obliged.
This information was then used by the eight women journalists and others to challenge the military officers involved to the Supreme Court. The Special Committee was then dismantled, rendering the petition for prohibition “moot and academic” (G.R. No. L-62992 September 28, 1984).
The speakers also discussed their membership to small women organizations: WOMEN IN MEDIA, and WOMEN (Women in Media Now). The WOMEN IN MEDIA served as an avenue of free discussion not just among the women involved but also for government officials whose statements were strictly off the records. WOMEN became a network of support for freelance journalists who found it hard to find job
As the late Doreen Fernandez argued in her article, “Women in the Media: From Stereotypes to Liberation”, women journalists “liberated” the representation of women in the media by taking upon themselves the role of liberators. Stepping outside the passive stereotypical roles women are often depicted as in popular media, women journalists participated as frontliners in the people’s fight for democracy (1987).
But it was not only the journalists who were part of the movement. Ms. Chuchay Molina-Fernandez, first Editor-in-Chief of Malaya, in her opening transitory statement for the second panel, gave due respect to the Filipino business owners, majority of whom happened to be women, who accommodated the mosquito press in their small business spaces.
Protecting Democratic Space: After EDSA and Present-Day Challenges
Meanwhile, the second panel of journalists was composed of the following: Chuchay Molina-Fernandez (first Editor-in-Chief of Malaya), Ces Oreño-Drilon (Content Acquisition Head of the ABS-CBN Lifestyle Ecosystem Group), Kara David (broadcast journalist of GMA-7), and Atty. Jo Clemente (Chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines).
Based on their personal experiences, the speakers felt that women now have more opportunities to practice their media profession. They observed that more and more women are found in the newsrooms and even in top ranking positions in the media.
The result of the Global Report on the Status of Women in News Media conducted by the International Media Women’s Foundation in 2011 confirms this. Although men generally outnumber women 4:1 in the region of Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines experienced a near gender parity in the media.
However, women hit the “glass ceiling” in the middle management level of their careers. Once they progress beyond the middle management to the higher management positions in the news companies, the women’s participation substantially drops.
Thus, although women in the media are more “free” and have greater opportunities now compared to the Martial Law era, there are still a lot of issues that still need to be addressed.
Women’s employment condition?
As was stated by Ms. Kara David, despite enjoying more freedoms after the EDSA revolution, the progress women have taken will not be enough when women at the margins of the society continue to suffer.
Among the gender gaps that need to be addressed is in terms of employment. As of 2016, only 38.94 percent of the total employed persons in the Philippines are women. The traditional labor gender division can also be observed wherein majority of men are employed in occupations that require physical strength while most women work in administrative and office jobs (Read more: Gender Distribution of Employed Persons in the Philippines 2016).
A PIDS Policy Note also showed that more women are in vulnerable employment such as self-employment and family work. The study noted that vulnerable employment is “characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity, and poor conditions that undermine workers’ fundamental rights” (2017).
Based on the data, around 8 in 20 women are in vulnerable employment (42%) in 2014. This means that many of those who are employed are working in jobs “lacking decent working conditions.
Furthermore, although the percentage of people in vulnerable employment has been decreasing, the rate of decrease for women is relatively slower compared to men. The percentage of men working in vulnerable employment decreased by 7.1 percent from 43.2% in 2010 to 36.1%. But the data for women only decreased by 4.2 percent from 46.7 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2014.
In terms of wage gap women are at an advantage, according to the said PIDS study. Due to the higher ranking positions of women, the gender gap in wages was noted by the PIDS study to be in favor of women.
Wage gap was defined as the difference between average daily basic pay of men and women shown as a percentage of average daily basic pay of men.
This is not to say that the women do not experience wage gap in the country. In Certain major occupation groups, men are better compensated although more women are employed such as technicians and associate professionals, clerks, service workers, and shop and market sales workers.
Across the two panels, the common sentiment was the similarity between the current administration and that of Marcos’ dictatorial regime, especially in regards to their strongman leadership.There is also the disregard of the independence of media, as seen by the recent acts of “bullying” against reporters.
Despite the absence of Presidential Decrees explicitly prohibiting and shutting down the media, there is a problematic bordering to antagonistic climate between the press, and the current administration and its dedicated supporters. Censorship is felt as an intense pressure to conform or face the threat of being verbally attacked on a personal level by mobs of supporters and trolls.
Furthermore, the common observation among panelists is that what is particularly troubling with the current administration is the blatantly degrading and sexist comments made by the very president himself against women.
The speakers condemned this, talking about the trickle down effect that creates an environment of impunity that allows the shameless disrespect against women.
“Nakakalungkot ngayon na pinagtatawanan ang pambabastos. Suddenly it’s cool. Bastos is not funny. It is not cool”, said Ms. David.
But this forum shows that women across generations prove to be resilient.
As Ms. Cheche Lazaro said, “Pressure and the chilling effect and censorship did not end when the Marcoses left. The pressure continued.. We must never let go if the ability to hold the line and the ability to push back and say we will not take this sh*t”.
Press Freedom: rooted in people’s right to know
Ms. Chuchay stressed that Press Freedom is not simply the journalist’s fight for their right to practice their profession. “Its oxygen is the continuing desire of the people to exercise their right to know”.
Thus, in this era where fake news and alternative facts have become the norm, people’s desire to uncover the truth and demand to hold the government officials accountable for their words and actions is needed more than ever.
This forum was co-sponsored by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), with the College of Mass Communication Student Council.
Albert, J. R. G., & Vizmanos, J. F. V. (2017). Do men and women have equal economic opportunities in the Philippines? (Policy Note No. 2017-09). Retrieved from https://pidswebs.pids.gov.ph/CDN/NEWS/pidspn1709.pdf
Fernandez, D. G. (1987). Women in Media in the Philippines. Media Asia, 14(4), 183-193. doi:10.1080/01296612.1987.11726261
International Women’s Media Foundation. (2011). Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media. Washington: District Creative Printing Inc. Retrieved from: https://www.iwmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/IWMF-Global-Report.pdf
Lardizabal-Dado, N. (2018). Women Talk Back: We are not All Vagina. Retrieved from: https://blogwatch.tv/2018/03/women-media/
Philippine Statistics Authority. (2016). Number and Percentage Distribution of Employed Persons by Sex, by Region, and Major Occupation Group 2016.
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