Uno, dos, tres. She is running for senate the third time around.

Former Senator Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng campaigns for a comeback on the May 14 elections under the Genuine Opposition (GO) slate.

The 54-year-old Ilongga has served as senator for two consecutive terms – the 9th and the 11th Congress (1992-2001), and, prior to it, as a Representative for the 3rd District of Quezon City (1987-1992).

The daughter of former University of the Philippines Professor and Ambassador Alice Marquez-Lim Coseteng and the late industrialist Emerson Coseteng attended her tertiary level in the Notre Dame College of California and the University of the Philippines Diliman, finishing AB Journalism course.

At the age of 18, she was appointed Assistant to the President of the Mariwasa Group of Companies. From 1970 to 1981, she was Curator and Proprietress of Galerie Dominique, and at the same time, she was team owner and manager of the Galerie Dominique Basketball Team up to 1983. In 1983, she became Vice-President of the Philippine Basketball Association.

After the EDSA revolution, she became part of the television scene when she hosted WomanWatch – a weekly tele-magazine program aired on PTV-4 – for nine years (1988-1995). The program was the first regular television program in the Asia-Pacific region for, by and about women and gender issues.

Her family is into the textile business for more than 50 years, which brought her to publish Sinaunang Habi: Philippine Ancestral Weave in 1991, reprinted in 2001. The book is a tribute to Philippines’ ancestral weavers, their skills, creativity and artistry. It demonstrates the success of the indigenous women of the Philippines in mastering this art of textile weaving.

During her years in UP, she became known as a street parliamentarian as she joined her fellow students in rallying for the ouster of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Running under the Kababaihan Para sa Inang Bayan (KAIBA) all-women political party, she gained as seat in the House of Representatives.

During her term as congresswoman, one of the bills that she filed was the first bill seeking a debt cap with a provision on full disclosure, limiting the amount of money being loaned by the Philippine government.

Her first term as senator, she was the Chairperson of the Committee on Women and Family Relations and the Committee on Cultural Communities. She has filed 180 bills, and as a women’s rights advocate, she filed Senate Bill 1413 (Women’s Anti-Rape Bill) which sought to redefine and reclassify rape from a crime against chastity to a crime against persons.

There was much opposition then to the bill, which was described by many as "too radical" and "overhauling established principles of jurisprudence" specifically in relation to the expanded definition of rape.
When re-elected in 1995, she became Chairperson of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development and the Committee on Civil Service and Government Reorganization. She was also Vice-Chairperson of various Senate Committees, during which, she has filed more than 100 bills.

As the chair of the Committee on Labor, she filed bills that sought to promote and protect the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), prohibit discrimination against women workers, increase vacation and sickness benefits of workers, develop the informal labor sector, and allow workers more access to Social Security Service (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) benefits.

Apart from her want to impart her past political experiences with younger members of the Senate when re-elected, she also says that she thinks the people need a “representation from somebody who’s not so old…but I’m not so young to not know what the past was all about”.

Coseteng considers her track record during her years in service as her edge compared to the first-timers.

“I’d like to bank on my track record on the issues that I supported, that I championed, on the advocacies that I took up the cudgels for,” she says. “Legislation should not be just based on the numbers of bills that one’s filed, maybe not only on the number of bills that have been passed into to law, but to some large extent, also on the advocacies that one stands for or against.”

In the recent election surveys, SWS ranked Coseteng 21st, while PulseAsia ranks her in the 20th position.

As the current Chair of the Board of Diliman Educational Corporation, which runs the Diliman Preparatory School and the Diliman Computer Techonology Insitute, she asserts that the present quality of education “have not been able to successfully teach our children to think analytically.”

She stresses that in order to teach students how to think, how to ask questions, how to collect their thoughts and develop thought process, the teachers should start early – from the first grade or from pre-school working their way up.

“We are very intelligent people but no matter how intelligent we are, if, at the most of absorptive years of one’s life, four years old to maybe ten years old…are not adequately founded on something solid, you’re actually guilty of depriving them of a future,” she explains.

Coseteng, during her previous terms, campaigned for public schools to be given bookis and learning materials of the same quality as in private schools.

“If we want education to be the great equalizer, what is being taught in the private schools should be taught in the public schools. And there’s no ifs and buts,” she says.

In line with the spate of extrajudicial killings, she pronounces that any sort of killings should be condemned.

“What I hate to see is the spectacle of sending our soldiers into the battlefield, to annihilate somebody who’s of the same color, who eats the same food, speaks the same language,” she says.

She says that any sort of opposition to the administration roots from a bigger problem – that is health, food, education, and security – and should not be labeled as “aggressions”. These problems are what needed to be addressed.

At the time the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was passed, Coseteng voted in favor of it. She says that the areas where the bases used to stay are booming at the present (more foreign investments/businesses coming in), proving otherwise all sorts of “scare stories” of those who wanted the bases to stay.

She believes that if the bases left earlier, the “booming economy” of places such as Pampanga would have taken place earlier.

From the 1970s to today, Coseteng says that the economy has gone from bad to worse. The past years were enough time for our neighbors to overtake us. “We had the chance to be great manufacturers, but we lost the momentum,” she adds.

In line with the economic partnership agreements with other countries the government is preparing, she points out that “we have to look at the agreements one by one, and maybe start to defend our own interests consistently.”

According to her, the country first needs to prepare itself until it is able enough to compete with other countries.“If we cannot compete, we’ll be swallowed alive,” she explained.—Pat Sarmiento

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