Leticia Ramos Shahani
|Leticia Ramos Shahani|
|Born|| September 30, 1929|
|Parents||Narciso Ramos and Angela Valdez|
Leticia Ramos-Shahani is the first female President Pro Tempore in the history of the Philippine Senate and one of the country's most cosmopolitan voices for women's rights advocacies.
Personal background and education
Shahani was born 30 September 1929 in Lingayen, Pangasinan to parents Narciso Ramos (former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs) and Angela Valdez. Her brother Fidel V. Ramos became president of the Philippines while her sister Gloria Ramos is a known diplomat. She raised her three children by herself after the sudden death of her husband Ranjee Shahani (an Indian professor and writer).
She finished her elementary and secondary education at the University of the Philippines. Later, she spent some time in the United States to pursue her studies. Shahani earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and a Masters degree in comparative literature from Columbia University in New York in 1954. She received the highest honors for her doctoral thesis in comparative literature from Sorbonne in 1961.
Shahani was one of the women senators on Corazon Aquino's slate in the 1987 elections together with Santanina Rasul. She considers herself “a politician by accident.” All she wanted was to be a teacher. For a period of time, Shahani taught English, literature, humanities, comparative literature, Spanish, French, social psychology, and other subjects in premier colleges and universities in the Philippines and abroad. She worked as a professor at the University of the Philippines (1954-1957), Queens Borough Community College, New York (1961), Brooklyn College, New York (1962), and New School for Social Research (1962-1967). She also became the dean of the Graduate School at Lyceum of the Philippines.
She initially joined the foreign service through the Philippine Mission to the United Nations. She became part of the United Nations Secretariat's advocacy on women's issues until she became the head of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Then, she served as ambassador to Romania (1975-1978) and Australia (1981-1986). In 1981, she returned to the United Nations as Assistant Secretary General for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, based in Vienna. She was also posted as Secretary-General of the World Conference on the UN Decade of Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985. After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, Shahani returned to the Philippines and became the Deputy Minister for Philippine Affairs.
Her arrival in the Philippines marked the beginning of her political career with the restoration of the democratic government. She won the senatorial seat in 1987 and served for almost a decade. During the Ninth Congress (1992-1995), Shahani was elected as President Pro Tempore and assumed the position from 1993 to 1995. She also chaired three major committees such as the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Education Committee, and the Agriculture Committee, and became a member of the Commission on Appointments.
Achievements in the Senate
Throughout her term of office, Shahani was able to push important legislations in the Senate concerning the welfare of many Filipinos. Along with her prioritization of women's issues, she also authored and sponsored legislations for youth, farmers, and Philippine foreign service and culture.
One of the first bills that she authored was RA 6725, entitled “Strengthening the Prohibition of Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace, Amending the Labor Code of the Philippines,” which later became a law. She was able to pursue two substantial laws among her major feminist legislations: RA 8353 (redefining of the crime of rape) and RA 8505 (assistance to rape victims and their families). In the 1994 national budget debate, Shahani introduced the mandatory annual budget allocation of 5% for gender and development from every department and agency of the government.
Her immediate concern for the fisherman's livelihood and the preservation and development of marine resources motivated her to legislate the “Fisheries Code” (RA 8550) and the “Magna Carta for Small- and Medium-Scale Industries” (RA 6977). With her previous involvement in the foreign services, she authored the “Philippine Foreign Service Act” (RA 7157) and "The Bases Conversion and Development Act" (RA 7227). Aside from this, she was also the main author and principal sponsor of RA 7356 which created the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
After her term in the Senate, she decided to enter provincial politics. In 1998, she ran as provincial governor of Pangasinan. She had grand visions for the province, but she got defeated by another candidate. At present, Shahani is affiliated with an NGO that helps in rural development.
- PCIJ Report: Women of the House. pcij.org. (Accessed November 9, 2007)
- “Santanina T. Rasul”. Senator Profile. (Accessed November 9, 2007)
- Women and Politics. Senator Leticia Shahani Lecture. (Accessed November 12, 2007)
- Erlanger, Steven. Manila Journal; From a Life of Privilege, a Woman of Substance. Query.nytimes. (Accessed November 13, 2007)