Many developing countries continue to be weighed down by gender-based prejudices.
The prejudices that bedevil their societies – rooted in customs and traditions from centuries ago – have limited the role and participation of women in their national life.
Fortunately, these prejudices have not infected our culture and collective beliefs.
Our cultural and social history has never seriously challenged the equality of the sexes.
Even before colonialism arrived in our shores, female warriors and tribal leaders had been exalted in our oral history equally as their male counterparts.
And the more than three centuries of colonial domination -- first by the Spanish, then by the Americans and finally by the Japanese -- had not eroded our belief in the right and prowess of our women to stand alongside their male counterparts.
The larger-than-life shadows cast by many of the women who shaped our history -- of Gabriela Silang, Tandang Sora, among others – re-affirm our belief, and constantly remind us, that gender has never been, and never will be, a determinant of bravery, leadership and valor.
It is because of this that we, as a nation, have never found difficulty in entrusting grave responsibilities and the highest positions in our government and in our leading industries to women.
Every branch of our government – whether the executive, legislative or judicial branch – has been headed at one time or another by a woman.
And many of those who steer the reigns of corporate leadership today are women.
Very early on, we realized as a nation that discrimination against the gender of those who comprise more than half of our population is not only wrong but also counterproductive.
Doing so will not only victimize women; it will likewise stifle economic growth, and lead to the stagnation of thought and ideas.
It is partly because of this that the Philippines in 2018 has been hailed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the most gender-equal country in Asia, and the eighth worldwide.
This ranking is the highest ever for the Philippines.
It has been made possible in part by our culture that rejects gender-based bias, and in part by laws that kept open our political, social and economic spaces for everyone.
Towards this end, I am happy to report that the Department is studying the proposal of Assistant Secretary Cheryl Daytec-Yangot for the adoption of gender-neutral language in our work.
Language is a powerful medium for inclusion or exclusion.
Words can consciously or subconsciously discriminate.
Our task as government workers is to ensure that the language we use includes, rather than excludes; that our words liberate rather than discriminate.
By doing so, we not only create spaces of inclusion; we likewise widen the pool of talent within our ranks and stimulate an environment where the best thought and ideas, rather than gender-based prejudice and bias, reign supreme.
I likewise commend the efforts of Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar to promote the rights of women in the workplace.
Earlier this year, Undersecretary Aglipay-Villar has caused the establishment of a Child-Minding Center in our Department.
Efforts like these help lighten the burden of those among us upon whose shoulders rests the dual responsibility of caring for our children even as they make sure that the wheels of justice continue to turn.
Finally, it is our bounden duty to make sure that all the laws of this land are enforced fully and equally, and that those who violate them are held to account at all times.
In furtherance of this mandate, I direct our prosecutors to enforce to the fullest the laws for the protection of women and children.
The enforcement of our laws against trafficking in persons, violence against women and children, among others, deserves our special attention not because the victims they aim to protect are weak, but because those who continue to prey on women and children have no place in a society of equals.
Those who disrespect and violate the equality guaranteed by our Constitution and our laws offend us all.
Our women bear the weight of our future.
It is in our collective best interest as a nation and as a people that we protect and promote their person.
Thank you and a pleasant morning to us all.