11/30/2016

#YSGirlGang: Geraldine Roman changes the game in Philippine politics

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In a country that runs on a lot of traditional values and ideals, Congresswoman Geraldine Roman is working to champion the LGBT cause to push for equality and open mindedness.

Geraldine Roman, 49, @geraldinebroman
Representative of the 1st District of Bataan

It’s not easy ferrying between Bataan and Batasan on the regular, and Representative Geraldine Roman does it with grace — in every sense of the word. It may be her first term in Congress, but Geraldine now represents a revolutionary idea in Philippine politics to find its voice: that the LGBT community deserves to enjoy the same rights as everyone else. As the first openly transgender woman elected to Congress, Geraldine has helped champion the LGBT cause by working to pass the anti-discrimination bill, along with other elected lawmakers known as “equality champs.” She also happens to be working towards centralizing the distribution of scholarship grants for more students to have access to free education. It’s certainly no cake walk to exact change on a national level, so how does Geraldine do it? “With the full conviction that what I’m fighting for is what is right and what is just,” she says.

What’s your day usually like?

I usually start my day with a very, very light breakfast. Then I do 30 minutes of workout, and then I rest for 30 minutes. I take a shower, and then I dress up and make myself up, and then I go to work. And usually, we have committee meetings in the morning, and then we have our regular sessions in the afternoon.

Every bill that you draft naturally has its fair share of supporters and detractors. How do you face criticism with grace?

With the full conviction that I’m fighting is what is right, and what is just. And you know, instead of adopting a very proud stance, with this conviction, you should have more humility and try to listen from their point of view and address their concerns. Because normally, their concerns are based on a lack of knowledge. You can only solve that by informing them.

“Geraldine has helped champion the LGBT cause by working to pass the anti-discrimination bill, along with other elected lawmakers known as “equality champs.” She also happens to be working towards centralizing the distribution of scholarship grants for more students to have access to free education.”

What has been the biggest challenge for you’ve faced in your term so far?

Well, the greatest challenge is basically adapting to the new pace in life. It’s very fast. And you have to be in so many places at the same time. (Laughs) And you try to manage your time, and it’s more of a physical challenge than a time challenge. So far, it’s been a very, very positive experience for me. I can’t complain, and I’m learning a lot. The more you learn, the more ideas you can contribute.

Speaking of new ideas, aside from the Anti-Discrimination Bill, what else are you working on at the moment?

I have another bill, which is of national scope. This is an act establishing the National Scholarship Agency. I feel very passionate about this, because it is going to benefit all of the youth who are studying. The reason behind this bill is that at present, scholarships are handled by different agencies. You have the CHED, and the Department of Education… each agency has its own priorities, and it spends its budget according to these priorities. And normally, students don’t know where to go. They normally resort to going to their congressmen, their governors, and their mayors. So I was thinking, “You know, we should have just one agency under the Office of the President with its own budget, and with its own priorities and its own mandate.” The sole mandate being to process and to manage and to disburse these scholarships. This is for primary, secondary, tertiary, and international education.

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