Gender Equality in the Military
How the Philippine Army promotes gender and development
By Mylene C. Orillo
The role and place of women in the military have constantly dominated public debates and discussions particularly about military readiness.
Apparently, integrating women into the military has not only compromised the readiness of military units in a way, but also the well-being of women in general. Accordingly, women are four times as likely to be excused from assigned deployments due to monthly periods, perimenstrual syndrome (PMS), and pregnancy.
Philippine Army Chief Public Affairs Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said that women in the Army are granted maternity and special leaves to be with their children and families on special occasions.
“Here at HPA, we also offer a Child Care Facility that helps military and civilian employees in their child-rearing responsibilities as they perform their duties. It ensures the quality and safety measures that is critical in protecting and promoting children’s development,” shared Zagala.
As for pregnancy and monthly periods, the Philippine Army adheres to the AFP policy on marriage, pregnancy, and maternity leave of female military personnel in the active service.
Pregnant female military personnel whose duties include physically strenuous activities are exempted from performing such upon recommendation and certification by the attending physicians or military medical officer.
“She is allowed to resume their duties only when she is physically fit,” said Zagala.
Other than those mentioned, women are also afforded the same leave privileges as men because the Army promotes the need to have a balance work and family life among its troops.
Addressing gender issues
Traditional attitudes still make many people frown upon the idea of women fighting and the image of mothers coming home in military uniforms.
In order to address gender issues, the Philippine Army created its Gender and Development (GAD) office in 2014 to promote women’s rights and gender equality.
“One way to do this is through the conduct of trainings and seminars for all the members of the Army on topics that are relevant to GAD, as well as the release of guidelines that support the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security,” said Zagala.
In case there are violence against women, such cases are treated with utmost confidentiality under the Office of the Ethical Standard and Public Accountability. The Philippine Army adheres to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) policy in the disposition of domestic-related offenses of AFP personnel.
Women soldiers are also encouraged to report violence against them through the Gender-Based Violence Referral System (GBVRS) established in 2015 where in the Army units and offices under the GBVRS network are mandated to establish a GBV desk equipped with an interview room, database of cases, and other equipment.
“Through the GBVRS, women are given the channel where they can raise issues on violence or harassment and have their cases be dealt with by proper authorities,” said Zagala.
Women in the military
Although women were initially granted the right to serve in the military as part of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps in 1963, it was only 1993 when women were granted the rights to become trained combat soldiers in the Philippine military by virtue of Republic Act No. 7192. Thus, the integration of first female cadets to Philippine Military Academy.
Of the 17 female cadets who reported in 1993, only seven graduated in 1997 along with their male classmates. The Magnificent Seven were Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ma. Consuelo Nunag Castillo, Army Lieutenant Colonel Leah Lorenzo-Santiago, Navy Commander Marissa Arlene Andres-Martinez, Army Lieutenant Colonel Maria Victoria Blancaflor-Agoncillo, Sheryl Uy-Cabasan, Arlene Orejana-Trillanes, and Aileen Somera-Reyes.
These women accepted the challenge, refused to accept the status quo, and paved the way for the next generation of female PMA graduates. From 1997 to 2018, 451 female cadets have already graduated in PMA.
According to Zagala, five percent of the allotted Candidate Soldier (CS) quota to respective Philippine Army major units is allocated to female recruits. At present, it has already complied with the Magna Carta for Women (MCW) to have 20 percent women soldiers in the ranks.
To make sure there is no special treatment/favors in women, Zagala said the Philippine Army implements a policy that prescribes the guidelines and procedures in the utilization of female line personnel in the PA.
“Consistent with the needs and demand of the military profession, its female personnel are accorded with equal opportunities for appointment, admission, training, promotion, etc., in accordance with the standards required for such activities except those minimum essential adjustments,” he stressed.
The Philippine Army also ensures the equality of women and men in the organization especially in occupying key positions.
“Their assignments on key positions are based on the same qualification applied to male officers. As long as they have the skills, training and physical abilities needed for the position, they will be given the post,” said Zagala.
At present, the statistics of women soldiers in the Philippine Army include 829 officers, 3,438 enlisted personnel, seven provisionary 2nd Lieutenant, and 12 CS, which is 4.38 percent of the entire Army soldiers.
Of the total officer attrition rate, 5.37 percent are females who availed optional retirement. Of the total EP attrition rate, 0.63 percent are females who availed optional retirement as well.