Today, April 30, should be a red-letter day for Filipino women because it is the 74th anniversary of the plebiscite that gave them the right to vote, according to election lawyer Romulo Macalintal.
“It is one of the most memorable and historic events for women, for 74 years ago marked the very first time that Filipino women exercised their right of suffrage,” Macalintal said in a statement.
According to Macalintal, as early as 1905, Filipino women had been fighting for the right to vote that was denied them in the 1899 Malolos Constitution.
The country's first election law, enacted by the Philippine Commission during the United States colonial regime, was Act 1582 which took effect on Jan. 15, 1907. Under the act, the right to vote was limited to male citizens 23 of age or over with legal residence in the Philippines.
“Women were not allowed to vote for they were regarded as mere extensions of the personality of their husbands or father, and that they were not fit to participate in the affairs of government,” said Macalintal.
Even the 1935 Constitution limited the right of suffrage to male citizens. But with the strong clamor from women's groups for equality between men and women in the exercise of suffrage, the framers of the Constitution decided to leave the issue of women's suffrage for the women to decide.
A provision was included in the 1935 Constitution to extend the right of suffrage to Filipino women on condition that “not less than 300,000 women possessing the necessary qualifications shall vote affirmatively” in a plebiscite on the question of women's suffrage.
On April 30, 1937, the date set for the plebiscite, a total of 447,725 women cast their votes in favor of women's suffrage.
“This paved the way for Filipino women being given the right to participate in public and political affairs and made known the existence of woman power,” Macalintal said.
The first female legislator, Elisa Ochoa of Agusan, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1941. Geronima Pecson of Pangasinan, the first female senator, was elected in 1947.
According to Macalintal, on March 29, 1984, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation 2346 declaring April 30 of every year as Woman Suffrage Day.