Mindanawon women in power: from 11.5% to 28.8% in 25 years

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 June) –  The number of  women occupying top posts in Mindanao has increased from only 10 women governors, city mayors and representatives in the post-EDSA elections of 1987 and 1988 to 34 elected for the 2013-2016 term that begins noon of June 30.

In terms of percentage in the last 25 years, more women are now occupying top posts in Mindanao, from 11.5% in the 1987-1988 polls to 28.8% in the May 2013 elections, according to data on post-EDSA elected officials researched and compiled  by MindaNews.

Most of the women, however, entered politics as wives, widows, daughters or sisters of men occupying top posts or ending their allowable three consecutive three-year terms.

In the first post-EDSA election for Congress in 1987 when Mindanao had 49 congressional districts, seven (14.3%) of those elected were women: Agusan del Norte’s Charito Plaza (1st district), Bukidnon’s Socorro Acosta and Violeta Labaria of the 1st and 2nd districts, Davao Oriental’s Thelma Zosa Almario (2nd district), Surigao del Norte’s Glenda Ecleo (1st district), Misamis Oriental’s Benedicta Roa (lone district) and Zamboanga City’s Ma. Clara Lobregat.

In the 1988 elections for local government officials, only two (9.10%) of  Mindanao’s 22 provinces then  — North Cotabato and Surigao del Sur — elected women governors: Rosario Diaz and Salvacion Castillo-Cejoco, respectively.

Diaz, a medical doctor, served three terms until 1998 while Cejoco, daughter of a former governor, served only one term.

A third woman became governor for 10 months: Davao Oriental Vice Governor Josefina Sibagat who assumed the post when Governor Leopoldo Lopez died on August 12, 1991. Lopez’ widow, Rosalind, was elected governor from 1992 to 2001.

Among Mindanao’s 16 cities in 1988, only one city (6.25%) – General Santos — elected a female mayor: Rosalita Nunez. But she lost her reelection bid to Adelbert Antonino who was representative of South Cotabato’s first district from 1987 to 1992. Antonino’s wife Luwalhati, took over Adelbert’s seat in Congress from 1992 to 2001. Luwalhati’s seat was taken over by daughter Darlene Antonino-Custodio from 2001 to 2010. Darlene was elected mayor of General Santos City in 2010, a post held by her father from 1992 to 2001. Darlene lost her reelection bid to Ronel Rivera, son of a fishing magnate.

After Nunez, not a single Mindanawon woman was elected city mayor for two terms (1992-1995 and 1995-1998).   Mindanao’s city mayors were all men.

It would be a different story by 1998. Maria Clara Lobregat, who “graduated” from her three consecutive terms as representative of the then lone district of Zamboanga City, was elected mayor.

From 2001 to 2004, Lobregat was joined by three other women city mayors – all wives of three-term mayors – Leonides Theresa, wife of Butuan City’s Democrito Plaza II; Nancy, wife of Oroquieta City’s Ernie Bandala and Jennifer, wife of Tangub’s Philip Tan.

From 87 to 118 posts

Out of  a total of 87 top posts in Mindanao in the first elections after EDSA in 1987 and 1988 ( 22  provincial governors, 16 city mayor and 49 representatives),  only 10 or 11.5% were won by women.

In the May 2013 polls, out of 118 top posts in Mindanao —  26 provincial governors, 33 city mayors and 59 representatives –  34 or 28.8% were won by women.

Of the 34 women elected to top posts for 2013– 2016, eight are governors;   eight are city mayors and 18 are representatives.

In terms of percentage per post, that’s 30.8% of 26 governors; 24.2% of 33 city mayors and 30.5% of 59 representatives.

In the 2010-2013 term, only 28 women were elected to top posts in Mindanao:  six governors, eight city mayors and 14 representatives.

The  eight governors elected to serve from June 30, 2013 to June 30, 2016 are Agusan del Norte’s Ma. Angelica Rosedell Amante, Basilan’s Jum Akbar, Davao Oriental’s Corazon Malanyaon, Dinagat Islands’ Glenda Ecleo, Misamis Occidental’s Herminia Ramiro, North Cotabato’s Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, South Cotabato’s Daisy Avance-Fuentes and Surigao del Norte’s Sol Matugas.

09govsAkbar and Malanyaon were elected to a third term, with Malanyaon running unopposed;  Ecleo, Ramiro, Talino-Mendoza and Matugas were elected to a second term while Amante and Fuentes are returning governors, Amante having served as governor from 1995 to 2004 and Fuentes from 2001 to 2010.

Akbar ran for governor after husband Wahab completed his three terms as Governor of Basilan in 2007. Wahab was elected representative of the lone district of Basilan but was killed in an explosion at the parking lot of the House of Representatives in November 2007.

Ecleo is widow of Ruben Ecleo, Sr., founder of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association who was mayor of Dinagat, then part of Surigao del Norte, from 1963 until his death in 1987.

Ramiro is widow of former Misamis Occidental second district representative and Health Secretary Hilarion Ramiro. She served as representative in 1995-1998 when her husband, who had served as 2nd district representative from 1987 to 1995 was named Health Secretary under the Ramos administration from March 1996 to June 1998. Hilarion returned as representative from 1998 to 2001 followed by Herminia from 2001 to 2010.

Talino-Mendoza is daughter of  Roger Talino, long-time mayor of Carmen, North Cotabato; Fuentes served as representative from 1992 to 2001, governor from 2001 to 2010, returned to the House of Representatives from 2010 to 2013 and is returning as governor this year.

Matugas, elected to a second term, is wife of Franciso Matugas who was governor from 1992 to 2001 and was elected to a third term as Representative. Francisco’s brother, Ernesto was elected to a second term as Surigao City mayor.

City mayors

The women city mayors elected to serve the 2013-2016 term are Dapitan’s Rosalina “Nene” Jalosjos, Dipolog’s Evelyn Uy, Gingoog’s Stella Marie Guingona,  Isabela’s Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar, Lamitan’s Rose Furigay, Tacurong’s Lina Montilla, Tandag’s Roxanne Pimentel and Zamboanga City’s Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar.

Jalosjos is sister of former Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, Jr;  Uy, incumbent mayor who was elected to a third term, is wife of Roberto Uy,  governor-elect of Zamboanga del Norte and former mayor of Dipolog;  Guingona is daughter of former Vice President and Senator Teofisto Guingona and outgoing Gingoog mayor Ruth Guingona, and sister of incumbent Senator Teofisto Guingona III; Santos-Akbar is also a widow of Wahab; Montilla is a sister of former mayor Lino Montilla; Pimentel is wife of incumbent mayor Alexander Pimentel while Climaco-Salazar is daughter of the late Vice Mayor Jose Climaco, younger brother of Mayor Cesar Climaco who was assassinated in November 1984.


The 18 Mindanawon women elected representatives for 2013-2016 are the Plaza sisters Ma. Valentina Cornelio and Evelyn Mellana of the two districts of Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon’s Malou Acosta, Compostela Valley’s Ma. Carmen Zamora-Apsay, Davao del Sur’s Mercedes “Didi” Cagas, Davao Oriental’s Thelma Almario, Dinagat Islands’ Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao, Lanao del Norte’s Imelda Dimaporo, Maguindanao’s Bai Sandra Sema, Misamis Oriental’s Juliette Uy, North Cotabato’s Nancy Catamco, Sulu’s Maryam Arbison, Tawi-tawi’s Ruby Sahali, Zamboanga del Sur’s Aurora Cerilles, Zambanga Sibugay’s Belma Cabilao and Dulce Ann Hofer, Davao City’s Mylene Garcia-Albano and Zamboanga City’s Lillia Nuno.

The Plaza sisters are daughters of the late Governor Democrito O. Plaza and former governor Valentina Plaza. They are also sisters of incumbent governor Adolph Edward Plaza. Plaza-Cornelio served as governor from 2007 to 2010.

Acosta is daughter of former Rep. Socorro Acosta (1987-1998) and sister of former Rep. Nereus “Neric” Acosta (1998-2007);  Zamora-Apsay, who was elected to a second term, is daughter of former three-term Rep. and now Vice Governor-elect Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora.

Almario served as mayor of Mati City in 1967-1977, was representative of Davao Oriental’s 2nd district  from 1987 to 1998, vice governor from 2001 to 2004 and back to Representative from 2007. She ran unopposed this year.

Cagas, an incumbent provincial board member,  is wife of  incumbent governor Douglas Cagas and mother of incumbent representative Marc Douglas. Her husband lost his bid for the mayoralty of Digos City while son Marc lost his bid for governor of Davao del Sur.

Dimaporo, reelected in the first district,  is wife of former governor and representative Abdullah Dimaporo who is now representative-elect of the second district. She is also mother of Mohammad Khalid who was elected to a third term as governor.  Imelda herself was governor from 1988 to 2007.

Sema is wife of  former Cotabato City mayor Muslimin Sema, incumbent vice mayor who lost his bid to return to City Hall; Uy is incumbent mayor of Villanueva town; Catamco was elected to a second term; Arbison is wife of former three-term Rep. Munir Arbison;  Sahali is daughter of incumbent governor Sadikul Sahali and brother of governor-elect Nurbert;  Cerilles, governor from 2001 to 2010, was elected to a second term as representative. She is the wife of reelected governor and former representative Antonio Cerilles.

Cabilao has served as representative of the defunct third district of Zamboanga del Sur (1992-1998),  and later the first district of Zamboanga Sibugay from 2001 to 2010.

Cabilao and Davao Oriental’s Almario will be serving their sixth term by June 30.

Hofer, representative from 2007 to 2010 is wife of  governor-elect George who had earlier served as governor of Zamboanga Sibugay from 2001 to 2010.

Garcia-Albano is daughter of former 3rd district Davao City Rep. Manuel Garcia and brother of former Representative Vincent Garcia.

Nuno is an incumbent councilor and wife of Councilor Abdurahman Nuno who is representing the barangays in the City Council.

Senate, Party-list reps

Bag-ao, incumbent Akbayan party-list representative who was appointed late last year as caretaker representative of Dinagat after the elected representative, the fugitive Ruben Ecleo, Jr., was dropped from the rolls.

Bag-ao is the only elected Mindanawon woman representative who does not come from a family of politicians.

A separate list of Mindanawon women in Congress are nominees of nationwide party-list groups who hail from Mindanao like Bag-ao (Akbayan, 2010-2013),  Gabriela’s Luz Ilagan (who will be serving a third term in 2013-2016) and before them Patricia Sarenas (1998 to 2001; 2003-2004) of Abanase Pinay.

The lone Mindanawon woman elected to the Senate in post-EDSA Philippines is Santanina Rasul who served for two terms from 1987 to 1995.

Several other Mindanawon women ran for the Senate after Rasul’s term, including herself (1998 and 2001 elections) and her daughter Amina (2004) and former Agusan del Norte Rep. Charito Plaza (1998), but failed to win a seat. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)