MANILA -- The gender of the Philippines' next president should not be an issue, the women's rights group Gabriela party-list group said on Wednesday.
This was the group's reaction to the statement of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago that the next president should be a woman, preferably from the Senate.
Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus said it does not matter whether a woman or a man heads the country.
Voters must not discriminate, and must choose a leader on the basis of track records and other qualifications, she said.
She cited as an example former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who she said did not advocate women's rights.
De Jesus said more women were pushed to work outside the country due to high unemployment rates. This exposed them to employer abuses that sometimes even led to death.
ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio also said Arroyo took away funds from the reproductive health (RH) program. The RH bill only needed ratification during her term but it was never passed.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, meanwhile, said the Philippines can also have a gay or lesbian president, and it should not matter as long as the responsibilities are carried out.