Duterte says women can make change work

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte, on the celebration of International Women's Day on Wednesday, recognized the contributions of women to the country's development.

In a statement, the President said, "women are heroes."

He highlighted how generations of women have transformed societies as mothers, workers, intellectuals, educators, caregivers, soldiers, activists, artists and leaders.

"We are fortunate, as we are grateful, that the Philippines has been a fertile ground for outstanding women in various sectors," Duterte said. "Together, we can make change work for women and women can make change work."

Duterte noted that the Philippines ranks high in the Asia Pacific region and in the world in terms of gender equality.

The President, who has been criticized and branded as a "misogynist," said his administration will continue to recognize women's "invaluable contributions" to society - particularly in the fields of sports, science, governance, education, public service and the arts."  He added that the entire world can look up to women for their creativity and imagination, courage and boldness, self-sacrifice and charity.

"May this special day, commemorating the milestones of women's historic struggle for equality across the globe, spur everyday awareness and inspire change in attitudes in families, communities and the country," Duterte said.

Robredo rallies women against fake news

Vice President Leni Robredo, however, decried the stifling of dissenting voice, especially of women, in the country.  In a student forum,  she described how she has been a victim of "fake news."

"Sa panahong ito, marami tayong hinaharap. Nakikita natin ang garapalang pagbabanta laban sa ating demokrasya. Sunud-sunod ang pagkalat ng mga pekeng news. Biktima po ako doon," Robredo noted. [We are facing so much at present. There is flagrant threat to our democracy. Fake news is rampant. I'm a victim.]

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She said democracy is threatened by a culture of fear and lack of respect for human rights. Women must stand against it, Robredo stressed.

"Paano tayo umabot sa puntong ito? Parang bigla, diba? Parang dati, nanahimik tayo.  Isang umaga, gumising tayo, iba na ang mundong kinagagalawan natin," she said. [How did we reach this point? It was so abrupt, isn't it? Before it was quiet, then we wake up one morning to a different world.]

"Sa kabila ng mga nakababahalang mga pangyayari ngayon, makikita natin na ang ating kababaihan mula sa iba't ibang sektor ay sama-samang tumatayo laban sa anumang pang-aalipusta," she added. [In the face of these occurrences, women from different sectors rise up against such insults.]

Robredo also lamented that the country continues to be divided even after the elections. She said public interest and basic needs have taken a back seat  to government programs that lead to death and violence.

"Ito po ay hindi nakakatulong. Lalo na't ang tunay na pangangailangan ng taumbayan ay nakakaligtaan na. Nakatuon ang pamahalaan sa pagsulong ng mga programa na nauuwi sa kamatayan at karahasan, sana mas bigyang pansin ang pangunahing pangangailangan ng bawat Pilipino — trabaho, edukasyon, kalusugan," Robredo said.

[Translation: It is not helping. The public's needs are being forgotten. The government is focused on programs that result to deaths and violence. I hope that what's given more attention by the government is what every Filipino needs — job, education, and health.]

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The vice president pointed out that the political opposition is being silenced by the filing of cases against and the spread of fake news in social media.

"Ang mga kritiko at oposisyon ay isa-isang sinusubukan patahimikin sa pamamagitan ng kaso at mga fake news sa social media," Robredo said. [Opposition critics are being muzzled one by one through filing of cases and the spread of fake news in social media.]

"Hindi tayo susuko. Hindi tayo mananahimik. Ang demokrasya ay nakaugat sa prinsipyo ng pagbibigay-boses sa ating kababayan, lalong lalo na ang kababaihan na pinipilit nila ngayong patahimikin," Robredo added, saying she will not be broken by any demolition job.

[Translation: We will not surrender. We will not be silenced. Democracy is rooted in the principle of giving the public a voice, especially to women who they are so eager to silence.]

Robredo stressed every Filipina should be free from fear, abuse, and injustice.