(MALAYA) FILIPINAS aren’t better off eight years after the second woman president of the country assumed power, three lady lawmakers said yesterday during the annual celebration of International Women’s Day.

Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said President Arroyo is not only gender-insensitive, but also "gender-dead and her administration is the graveyard of gender issues."

Hontiveros said Arroyo is the greatest stumbling-block towards the empowerment of Filipino women, and is virtually an icon of machismo, bigotry and homophobia. "Other than the fact that she is female, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has never been pro-women. Ironically, her eight years in power have been debilitating for Filipino women. GMA claims to be an energetic pro-lifer, yet she has hardly shown any respect for human dignity in her presidency," Hontiveros said. "Filipino women are not expecting special treatment from the second female president of the country, just basic fairness. But even that she failed to deliver."

Her opposition to the reproductive health bill shows her bigotry. How can a woman leader oppose a bill so fundamental to women’s rights? She is in effect denying Filipino women and Filipino families the opportunity to live decently," she said, adding that Arroyo is not just gender-insensitive but gender-dead. "She could have pushed for landmark policies and programs that could have uplifted the lives of Filipino women and children. She did nothing."

Hontiveros said Arroyo’s tendency to impose draconian measures reeks of severe machismo. "Like an alpha male, she resorted to violence, coercion and abuse to retain control and power. It betrayed her insecurities as a leader. A woman leader secure of her position would have embraced demands for accountability and would have welcomed calls for the truth to come out," Hontiveros added. "Her type of leadership is also male-dominated. Hawks dominate her cabinet. Furthermore, the controversies involving First Gentleman Mike Arroyo raises this question – who is really in control of the presidency?"

Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan who joined thousands of women in the march and protest-rally yesterday, said the condition of Filipinas has gone from bad to worse under Arroyo.

"President Arroyo’s government has spawned widespread misery, poverty, unbridled corruption, and violence against Filipino women, with her contemptuous servility to foreign interests and flagrant perpetuation of herself in power," Ilagan said. "Women bear the brunt of Arroyo’s one-way economic policies. Her labor export policy subjects women OFWs not only to unfair labor practices, but to sexual and physical abuse in foreign lands. Despite overseas workers being the saving grace of the Philippine economy, Mrs. Arroyo hardly shows any concern for our so called modern-day heroes as evident in the lack of concrete and immediate measures to alleviate their condition."

"The relief measures that she prescribed were merely windbags of promises that cannot address the impact of the global financial crisis and pressing needs of workers and their families. Worse, her government legitimizes labor contractualization and justifies the dirt-poor levels of wages and benefits," Maza said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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