Mati mayor to Pinays: Be the voice, change
Expressing her pride in the progress of women in politics in the Philippines, she said women have come a long way from not being allowed to cast their votes to have two female presidents and a female vice president with the potential to become the next president.
Mati City Mayor Michelle Marie Denise Nakpil Rabat. | photograph courtesy of Mayor Michelle Rabat
Mati City Mayor Michelle Marie Denise Nakpil Rabat has this to say to her fellow women in the field of politics — to take their part in effecting positive societal changes while challenging the country’s male-dominated politics.
While Rabat acknowledged the limitations that women face in politics, Rabat told Daily Tribune on Thursday that they should “stay in their course” and not let setbacks or biases discourage them.
“I know (the limitations) are kind of frustrating (but) don’t give up. Don’t get frustrated,” she said.
Nevertheless, she urged women not to be discouraged, to be the voice and change they want to see in the world, and to become influencers in their chosen fields.
“Be the voice and be the change that you want so that you can influence. The term ‘influencer’ is now trending, right? So we do have a lot of women influencers,” Rabat said.
“For the women, the young politicians — up and coming politicians who want to enter the field, or the young ladies who want to enter the field of politics: Do not be discouraged. Do not allow yourself to be bullied as well,” she added.
Expressing her pride in the progress of women in politics in the Philippines, she said women have come a long way from not being allowed to cast their votes to have two female presidents and a female vice president with the potential to become the next president. There are also a significant number of lady legislators and executives, marking significant progress.
Rabat , now 60, shared how she stumbled into politics when her father — former Governor and former Mayor Francisco Garcia Rabat — asked her to continue his work as a former city mayor.
“Actually, I had no ambition to be in politics. Growing up, both my parents: my father was a governor, my mom (former Miss Philippines Edith Nakpil) was once an assemblywoman, and you know, I didn’t like it because they had no time for family,” she said.
“It’s like we became the second family. Their first family was the community, the province, the city, and the municipality. But eventually, growing up, what inspires you is you see what your parents are doing,” she added.
She said her father, took her as his executive assistant because of his age and cancer survivor status.
He eventually asked her to continue his legacy when he couldn’t run for a third term.
“When the doctor told (my father) that he could no longer run on this third term, he asked me: ‘Michelle, please continue what I have already started.’ So that’s it. By accident, I’m here,” Rabat said.
Despite the initial resistance, her father’s request helped her gain acceptance in the community, leading to her successful runs for two terms.
As a mayor, Rabat has been pushing for gender equality and empowering women in her community.
She has implemented projects and ordinances to protect women in her community, including prioritizing women’s sectors.
On the peace and order situation in Davao Oriental’s, where there used to be a significant number of New People’s Army rebels, she said former President Rodrigo Duterte’s program — the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, was successful in making the province insurgency-free.
“I also faced a lot of challenges (in handling this situation) during my first term (2007-2010),” Rabat said.
“I was even invited by them to come up and have a dialogue, of which I did to listen out to them and hear them out and for me to also air out our concerns from the government side,” she said.
Rabat added she is also facing personal challenges as a female mayor in a “world full of men.”
“They can say you’re the mayor. But still, there are biases and double standards of how women are treated in the field of politics,” she said.
“More often than not, they underestimate us. So I make sure, at least for my community that the women sector is empowered,” Rabat added.
Nevertheless, she remains committed to serving her community and making a positive difference.
Rabat said she has always prioritized promoting gender equality since the beginning of her tenure as mayor.
“We always give priority for them in terms of projects, in terms of by law, in law, through ordinances to make sure (that our women) are protected,” she said.
In recognizing the biases and double standards that exist in politics, especially towards women, Mayor Rabat is one local government chief executive who does not falter in empowering women in her community through projects and ordinances aimed at protecting their rights.
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