University of the Philippines Diliman University Student Council Chairpersons by Gender

by X. J. Bilon

In the whole history of the University Student Council (USC) of UP Diliman, only eight women have led the student council as its chairperson. In fact, the first female chair of USC, Malou Mangahas of SAMASA, was elected only in 1980 [1]—more than 50 years after the revival of the student council in 1924 [2].

Since the reinstitution of USC in 1980 after its abolishment during the martial law under Marcos regime, UP has only one woman for every four men elected as USC chairperson. That is, only 21% of USC chairpersons from 1980 to 2017 are women, despite the fact that women comprise 57% of UP Diliman student population as reported in 2013 [3].

None of the three major political parties in the university have fielded a woman candidate as its chairperson in the last two elections. KAISA UP’s last woman chair candidate is Zaira Baniaga, who lost to JP Delas Nieves in 2015. Erra Zabat was the last of STAND UP, but lost to Arjay Mercardo in 2014. UP ALYANSA has not fielded a woman chair candidate since 2013, with Heart Diño, who ran and won in 2012, being their last woman candidate as USC chairperson. 

Although women from UP ALYANSA, KAISA UP, and STAND UP have been successful in securing the top spots as USC councillors in the past elections, for the third consecutive year, no political party has a woman candidate leading their slate for the upcoming elections.

UP is known to be a microcosm of the Philippine society: Our university is a reflection of what the Philippines is. But, at least in terms of public governance, it can also be said that the converse is true. Many Filipino politicians—presidents, legislators, judges, and other government officials—come from UP, with even some of them starting their political careers in USC.

Consequently, if here in our university, we—especially the political parties—won’t have gender-responsive programs and policies that will actively encourage and develop women leaders in this still-patriarchal society, then it is difficult to picture a Philippine society where we have better women representation, more women leaders, and gender equality on a national level any time soon.