Hear Her Roar: Rowena Guanzon Has Always Been A Woman of Fighting Words—Way Before Twitter - LA Lives

The commissioner fights for what she thinks is right a few days before retirement, similar to the rest of her decades-long career.

Rowena Guanzon has always been a fighter, long before her recent Twitter fame. The COMELEC commissioner and women’s rights advocate first joined the government under President Corazon Aquino; under this administration, she was appointed Mayor of Cadiz in Negros Occidental at only 28 years old. 

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After serving the city for four years, Guanzon became a COA (Commission on Audit) commissioner in 2013. During her oath for the role, she vowed to prioritize optimizing government agencies’ gender and development budgets.

By 2014, between her posts at the Comelec and COA, the UP Law graduate and pro-woman lawyer applied for a seat in the Supreme Court. “For women’s rights advocates like me, the personal is the political,” pertaining to feminist activist Carol Hanisch’s slogan for the cause. 

Trending topic 

More recently, the outgoing commissioner, retiring on February 2, publicized that she voted to disqualify presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr. for not paying income taxes in the 1980s. 

In her Separate Opinion on the case, the Harvard graduate wrote that Marcos committed a crime of moral turpitude due to his tax evasion.

Guanzon added that the ousted dictator’s son was also part of Ilocos Norte’s provincial government at the time. While he would have staff handle these affairs for him, Marcos did not comply with “what everyone else complies with.”

“Taken all together, all of these circumstances reveal that Respondent’s failure to file his tax returns for almost half a decade is reflective of a serious defect in one’s moral fiber,” she wrote.

The statements caused Guanzon to trend on Twitter, where she freely replied to users criticizing her disclosures. In fact, through the years, she’s never been one to mince her words.

 In 2019, during Duterte Youth party-list group nominee Ronald Cardema’s case on attempting bribery, she told TV Patrol, “What is he going to do now? He’s going to file impeachment against me as if I’m going to be scared of that. Why doesn’t he just challenge me to a duel?” The statement came after Guanzon received death threats that were believed to be from Duterte Youth. 

Three years prior, the former law professor confronted election technology provider Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia for entering the Comelec’s executive dining hall while under investigation. “He should not be here, [he’s] under investigation,” she told reporters. “There should be a no-contact room from commissioners because we are going to decide their fate.”

While in her experience being a woman commissioner, Guanzon acknowledges that there’s still a long way to go regarding gender equality in the government and fighting against discrimination.

“I’ve always advocated for equality and anti-discrimination of women and the [LGBTQIA+ community],” the 64-year-old told Rappler. “And it’s not just on the intellectual level, I went to the streets, I rallied, and I represented them in courts. But I think my track record will show that I never backed down from a good fight.”

Proud legacy 

With disregard to herd mentality, Guanzon always spoke out on what she believes in. “I was raised by hard working parents, and I want them to be proud of me. That’s why inaayos ko ang trabaho ko,” she once Tweeted. “Even if mag-isa lang ako sa mga desisyon— tawag sa akin ‘lone dissenter’—tumatayo pa rin ako, dahil iyon ang tingin kong tama sa batas.”

Back when the author of gender equality and human rights books was Cadiz’s city chief, she dealt with many issues from unpaid salaries to low mortality, resulting in it being a third-class city. By 1992, when she finished her term, it became a first-class city.

Guanzon is retiring from her commissioner post with a career spanning over forty years by being motivated to do good for the nation.

Against criticism of people saying Guanzon may have broken laws by disclosing her vote to disqualify Marcos, the dean of Far Eastern University-Institute of Law Mel Sta. Maria said, “she was motivated by a desire to serve the public as far as she is concerned, a matter of national interest.”

Banner photo from @rowena.guanzon on Instagram.

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