Although several hundred miles away from the country’s capital, the regions in Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, and SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City), still possess remarkable traits that make them ideal locations for economic growth, technological developments, tourist destinations, and more.
With the right leaders in position, the provinces can continue to unlock their potential in various industries. Fortunately, these regions have well-equipped representatives for the 19th Congress to lead the Filipinos toward a better future.
HON. MARIA FE R. ABUNDA (Eastern Samar, Lone District)
“Incumbent women leaders should secure enough visibility and representation in the decision-making processes, particularly the lobbying and proposal of various bills that champion women’s rights in the House of Representatives.”
Before becoming the district’s representative, Abunda established herself as a reliable politician through the mayoral position. She first assumed the assignment in 2019 and won re-election in 2022. Throughout her tenure in the House of Representatives, she pushed for several bills and maintained an authoritative presence throughout her district. Nonetheless, she always makes them feel that she’s approachable whenever they need anything.
People in Eastern Samar know how passionate Abunda is about her job. Aside from providing accessible, quality education, she advocates for heritage preservation, safety and security, and women’s empowerment.
She also pushed for several bills in the 19th Congress, including reapportioning the lone district of Eastern Samar into two legislative districts, strengthening mental health services in state universities and colleges, and institutionalizing enterprise-based education and training programs. Abunda also supported other bills focused on improving tourism in key destinations across the Philippines.
HON. LOLITA T. JAVIER (Leyte, Second District)
If two words could amply describe Javier’s service, it would be love and compassion. She loves her job as a lawmaker and leads her constituents compassionately. She also serves as an example of strength and grace for women to emulate. Javier continues to find inspiration to work harder as a public servant. Within Leyte, Javier keeps herself busy through various projects. These include infrastructure programs to help boost the province’s socioeconomic development and increase productivity.
The Honorable Javier strongly advocates for health preparedness and women empowerment, accessible education to all, employment for displaced workers through trainings, seminars and TESDA programs, and promoting modern business models that will help small and medium SMEs to thrive in the competitive market. For Javier, it’s always service with a smile, no matter how hectic her schedule may be. She is currently the Chairperson of the Committee on Visayas Development in Congress, which oversees all matters directly and principally relating to policies, programs and related initiatives affecting the economic, social, political and cultural development of municipalities, cities and provinces in the Visayas Region.
As a legislator, she supported vital passages such as the RA 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act which aims to address adverse socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, RA 11517, which authorized then President Rodrigo Duterte to expedite the processing and issuance of the national and local permits in times of national emergency and RA 11525 also known as the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which expedited vaccine procurement and administration to fight COVID. She is also responsible for the passing of a law converting the Eastern Visayas State University Dulag Satellite Campus to a Regular Campus.
HON. GLONA G. LABADLABAD (Zamboanga del Norte, Second District)
“Overseeing the proper implementation of laws that ensure the empowerment of women has been my priority as a legislator. This requires regular information campaigns and close collaboration with stakeholders. I hope to inspire future women leaders by strictly adhering to the tenet that public office is a public trust.”
Running for representative was a challenging feat for Labadlabad. When she made her bid in 2016, she proved to her constituents that she was more than deserving of the position. She won re-election in 2019 and 2022 by a landslide vote. It showed how much she established herself in the district and how much her public trusted her.
One of her recent programs was establishing the Hawak Kamay Bank to assist the people of Zamboanga del Norte’s Second District. Labadlabad also conducts several programs that engage her constituents in various activities.
Labadlabad pushed for several bills, including adjusting the monthly pension and disability benefits of retirees of the Department of Foreign Affairs, regulating the use of treatment of municipal and hazardous wastes, and providing for a new passport law.
HON. DIVINA GRACE YU (Zamboanga del Sur, First District)
“I continuously set an example to young women today to always find the courage to pursue their dreams and to be able to make a positive difference in someone’s life”
Raised from Zamboanga Del Sur, she is the first Zambosurian who has been elected as Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives. Yu is also a member of the Philippine Army Reserve Force with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Besides advocating for women’s empowerment, she supports children’s welfare by encouraging them to engage in sports and access quality education to become the next global leaders and model citizens.
Yu supported the enactment of national laws like Balik Scientist Program Act, Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict, Covid -19 Vaccination Program Act, Free Irrigation Service Act, Expanded Maternity Leave Law, strengthening professionalism and promoting the continuity of policies and modernization initiatives in the AFP, among others.
HON. Maria Carmen S. Zamora (Davao de Oro, First District)
“Our voice as a legislator and policy-maker is powerful in advancing women’s causes only because we echo the collective sentiments of all the women we represent. We hope that future women leaders will build on the gains achieved by our platform and template of public service.”
The lady legislator, popularly known as Maricar in her district, is an inspiring and beloved motherly figure to her constituents. Among all the values she upholds as the Voice of her district, transparency and relevant service are paramount. “Serbisyong duol sa tao,” is her byword, and sums up her brand of leadership: Work closely with the people in a manner firmly rooted in trust and accountability.
Rep. Zamora offers various eco-social assistance programs to her constituents in coordination with the Office of House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and TINGOG-PL Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez. Her platform of government is encapsulated in the acronym SMILE (Social and Medical Services, Infrastructure, Livelihood and Education). Of late, she has been at the forefront of relief services extended to those who were affected by natural disasters (flooding and earthquake) which hit the province recently.
As an active legislator, she chairs the Special Committee on Strategic Intelligence, and has been the designated “defender” of the annual budgetary allocation of the Department of Education and related agencies as Vice Chairperson of the powerful Committee on Appropriations. The principal author of the law creating Davao de Oro State College, she basks proudly in the fact that the school, new as it is as an educational institution, has been consistently producing topnotchers in various licensure examinations. Among her notable proposals in the 19th Congress which are aligned with the legislative priorities of the administration, she is aiming for the establishment of a multi-specialty hospital in her district, a much-desired measure, which will advance the health and well-being of her less-advantaged constituents.
Rep. Zamora is an indefatigable and purpose-driven lawmaker, with the collective welfare of her people taking precedence over all else.
HON. PRINCESS RIHAN SAKALURAN (Sultan Kudarat, First District)
“As we continue our efforts and commitment gearing towards Gender Equality, it is important to recognize the challenges and experiences that they were able to surpass that made women the better version of themselves.
We should mainstream in all our Programs, projects and activities on women concerns and will see to it that all are fully implemented at all levels so that gender equality will be within our reach.”
Although the lady legislator looks young, people shouldn’t take her lightly. She’s dedicated to preserving her region’s heritage and promoting its development. She leads her district with beauty, wisdom, and grace. Sakaluran also has progressive ideas for improving Sultan Kudarat’s tourism, socio-economic development, and more.
Sakaluran personally oversees the programs in her district, including the establishment of infrastructures, providing government assistance to beneficiaries, and championing education, among her other priorities. The lawmaker also promotes gender inclusivity within her community to show that her district is welcoming and progressive.
Other than advocating for the welfare of her district’s constituents, Sakaluran also pushed for several bills in the 19th Congress to help improve the lives of everyday Filipinos. These include instituting violence against persons with disabilities as an aggravating circumstance, reclassifying the position of barangay officials as regular government employees, and increasing the minimum salaries of public school teachers in basic and higher education. Sakaluran is also the Chairman of the Committee on East ASEAN Growth Area.