Senator Loren Legarda
Eulogy for Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani
March 23, 2017 | Senate Session Hall
Perhaps it was not coincidence that former Senate President Pro-Tempore Leticia Ramos-Shahani passed away on women’s month. Perhaps, even until her death, she wanted to make a statement on women empowerment. Manang Letty was, after all, a true embodiment of the empowered Filipina.
Even before the Philippines elected its first female president, Senator Shahani was already fighting for a niche for women in the global arena at a time when gender equality was a dream far from reality.
She had an illustrious career as a diplomat, first joining the United Nations in 1964, working at its Division of Human Rights.
In 1974, she chaired the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which recommended that 1975 should be celebrated as “International Women’s Year”.
As a foremost women’s rights advocate, she pushed for the institutional empowerment of women. She prepared the first draft of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), known as the international bill of rights for women adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979.
In 1985, she served as secretary-general of the 3rd World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya and in 1995, she headed the Philippine delegation to China for the 4th World Conference on Women where the UN adopted the Beijing Platform for Action, promoting gender mainstreaming as a strategy for national policy.
Senator Shahani likewise championed women’s rights at home as legislator from 1987 to 1998. She authored Republic Act 6725, dubbed as the “Shahani Law”, which addresses gender discrimination at work. She introduced the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 and the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998, among others. Senator Shahani also introduced the inclusion of the mandatory five percent allocation in the budget of every government department and agency for gender and development.
Manang Letty was also an environmentalist, educator, culture advocate and civil society leader. She had strong convictions about protecting our seas and our territory and spoke about it in various fora and to me.
I am glad that the Senate was able to honor her contributions to the nation when she was still alive. I authored Senate Resolution No. 87 honoring her achievements in 2015 which was unanimously adopted by the Senate. She was here to receive it.
Manang Letty also had to be strong as a mother, raising her three children almost single-handedly after the death of her husband following eight years of marriage.
On a personal note, I am honored that Manang Letty somehow took a liking for me and attended all events I invited her to, except when she was ill, and often congratulated me and encouraged me in my three terms as senator for the work that I do, even sending me delicious kesong puti from her Lingayen farm or fruits from her trips to Taiwan.
There are many things Manang Letty and I share—our love for bamboo, for textiles, for culture, for oceans and the seas, even being a stickler for protocol and detail.
In her speech at the Fourth UN World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Senator Shahani declared: “Women of the world: behold, our time has come!”
Manang Letty, your time here on Earth may have come to pass, but behold, your legacy shall live forever. Thank you for your work to empower not only the Filipino women, but also the women of the world. Thank you for your untiring service. Rest now in peace.