Manning Up? Apolinario Mabini on the rights of women (Part 1)

Hindi lamang kawalan ng abs ang tatak ng pagiging tunay na lalaki?


This two-part series is published here in commemoration of Apolinario Mabini's 150th birth anniversary (1864-2014).


I have watched last October 18 Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini, a production of Dulaang UP for the man's 150th birth anniversary, which is this year. This inspired me to create a series on the man Mabini, the one long dubbed as the "Brains of the Philippine Revolution".

Apolinario Maranan Mabini
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia

   The Asociacion Feminista Filipina (AFF), founded in 1905, is regarded as the first organization in the Philippines to push for women’s rights, notably women suffrage. Though taking this to note, I attempted to look a decade back in search of a possible earlier pioneer. My search made me land at Apolinario Mabini, the nation’s first Prime Minister and dubbed as the Brains of the Revolution. Actually, what surprised me is not the fact that he, Mabini, was a man advocating women’s rights. Just to cite an example, United States presidential candidate Gerrit Smith of New York campaigned for women suffrage in the 1848 elections. Although, out of 2,879,184 votes cast that election year, Smith only gathered 2,545. What is surprising was the fact that, at that time, not one of the Filipinas involved in the Revolution and the Republic had advocated for their own rights. Not even suffrage. Mabini was indeed the first to recognize the necessity of enforcing extensive women’s rights in the Philippines, even predating the AFF. What is aimed here is to introduce this advocacy of his.

On Political Rights of the Filipina

   One of the more radical provisions forwarded by Mabini in his Constitutional Programme of the Philippine Republic (original Tagalog: Panukala sa Pagkakana nang Republika nang Pilipinas) was the granting of suffrage to women. This provision was the second part of Article 17, which states that:

   Ang mga nag babayad ng ambagan na sumapit sa dalauangpu at isang taong sincad, at di nasusucuban ng capangyarihan ng magulang o nang asaua, ay magcacaroon nang catuirang macapaghalal sa ano mang catungculan sa bayan. liban na lamang cun iuala nila ang capangyarihang ito sa pamumuhay na halaghag o sa pagca't sila'y binibiguiang usap o nahatulan sa ano mang casalanan.
My own translation of the provision: Those [women] who pay taxes, have reached at least 21 years of age, and is neither under jurisdiction of parents or husband, will have the right to vote for any position in the country. That is, unless they are to lose this by living a nomadic life, or they are being accused or sentenced of any offense.

With this, Mabini is regarded as the first to officially recognize women suffrage. Mabini reinforced women suffrage in a later provision in his Constitutional Programme. This provision was Article 24, which states that:
   Ang Kapisanan ay isang Katipunan nang manga Tagatayong inihalal ng mga umaambag na may carapatan, upang mangatauan sa canila at magtangcacal sa mga catuiran at pagaaring nasasaclau nang canilang Cabayanan at nang boong Republica. Umaambag na may carapatan ang mga lalaquing may taglay nang mga casangcapang nabibilin sa numero 16 at ang mga babaying nasasaclau sa icalauang pangcat nang numero 17.
My own translation of the provision: The Congress is an Assembly of Representatives duly elected by those [citizens] who pay taxes and have the right, to represent them and defend for the rights and properties under the jurisdiction of their respective Provinces and of the entire Republic. Those who pay taxes and have rights are men that possess the slated qualifications in [Article] number 16 and women slated under the second part of number 17.

   However, another issue arises from this point: If women can elect, can they also be elected? In our present Constitution, that of 1987, any citizen (male or female) qualified in the requirements of Article V, can vote. A registered voter, once meeting qualifications for the position, can be a Senator, Representative, Vice President or President (in general, in any elective position). Here applies the concept of universal suffrage best expressed by Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
   Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
   Mabini is definitely not the contemporary of any of the aforementioned. And considering this, it can be seen that he did not exactly state in his Programme if women will be enabled to run for elective positions. Also, even by the time of the AFF, women suffrage in countries abroad does not necessarily mean women being candidates for office, or vice versa. Initially, that is. What now? What is needed is a second look at the provisions. Article 25 slated the qualifications for a representative of Congress, summarized into the following:
1) Qualifications already stated in Article 16

2) At least 25 years old

3) Resident of at least the province of the candidate’s electors

4) Has a steady source of income

5) Does not hold power to punish the candidate’s constituents

6) Must be one of the most educated and honestly known of the residents
Article 16 states that: Ang mga namamayang sumapit sa dalauangpu at isang taong. sincad at hiudi hampas lupa at hindi rin binibiguiang usap at nahatulan sa ano mang casalanan, ay macapipili at maeapaghahaial sa ano mang catungculan sa bayan; nguni’t upang mapili siia ay quinacailangan bucod dito na matutong bumasa't sumulat at mag taglay ng iba pang casangcapang hinihingi ng cautusan sa baua't catutungculan. Tatauaguing hampas lupa ang mga ualang napagquiquilalang hanap-buhay, o di caya'y ualang pinagcacaquitaan cundi ang laro.

A woman may easily meet the first five requirements (especially if she is part of the landed elite), but take note of the last requirement: must be one of the most educated and honestly known of the residents. Article 16 also refers to the necessity of the voter, and in Article 25, the representative, to be literate. Usually, at Mabini’s time, it is the man who achieves this qualification. It is quick to be noticed among the members of the Malolos Congress. Among the 88 members who drafted the Constitution, there were 43 lawyers, 18 physicians, 5 pharmacists, 7 businessmen, 4 farmers (possibly hacenderos), 3 educators, 3 soldiers, 2 engineers, 2 painters and 1 priest (Gregorio Aglipay). However, the key to this issue can be seen in the third part of Article 17, which states that:
   Ang mga babayi ay macapag-aaral ng ano mang sanga ng carunungan maguing sa isip maguing sa quimotin o talas ng camay sa mga sanayang palagay ng bayan at macahahauac ng ano mang catungculang na uucol sa mga catibayang canilang macuha.
My own translation of the provision: Women can be educated in any branch of knowledge concerning the skill of the mind or the skill of the hand, among the skills accounted in the country, and can hold any position based on the degree they have received.

Elisa Rosales-Ochoa
Photo courtesy of Rappler and
House of Representatives
If a woman can pursue for education, she eventually may be “one of the most educated and honestly known” among her people. Therefore, with all the requirements cleared, the Filipina can actually be a member of Congress, to which Article 27 states that representative is the most honorable position any citizen can aim. This is also a testament to Mabini’s advanced views for administering the nation. Indeed, it would only be in 1941 that the Philippines have a Filipina representative. That is, in the person of Elisa Rosales-Ochoa.


Want to continue this series? Read Part 2 of the Manning up series.

See the references by clicking here.


[Disclaimer: While some content may offend or cause disagreement with some readers, it must first be taken to mind that the author does not have access to the entire Mabini fountain of sources. Therefore, whatever analyses and conclusions made here are made as adequate as possible and are only built from the available evidences, sources and theories the author has access. Also, since only few editing, mainly grammatical, was made since this series was first written in 2014, then it is yet to be subjected to change. Any correction is welcome, but copying without permission is being frowned upon, since this blog is not under any Creative Commons Attribution. Thank you for reading the Young Filipino Historian.]
Manning Up? Apolinario Mabini on the rights of women (Part 1) Manning Up? Apolinario Mabini on the rights of women (Part 1) Reviewed by Al Raposas on Monday, October 20, 2014 Rating: 5

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