Risa Hontiveros

Ana Theresia Navarro Hontiveros-Baraquel (Tagalog pronunciation: [ɔntiˈverɔs ˈbarakɛl]; born February 24, 1966)[1] is a Filipina politician, community leader, and journalist serving as a Senator since 2016. She previously served as a Party-list Representative for Akbayan from 2004 to 2010, and unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2010 and 2013 before succeeding in 2016.[2]

Risa Hontiveros
Lady Senators 3rd Regular Session Hontiveros (cropped).jpg
Hontiveros in 2018
Senator of the Philippines
Assumed office
June 30, 2016
Chair of the Philippine Senate
Women, Family Relations
and Gender Equality Committee
Assumed office
July 25, 2016
Preceded byPia Cayetano
Chair of the Philippine Senate
Health and Demography Committee
In office
July 25, 2016 – February 27, 2017
Preceded byTeofisto Guingona III
Succeeded byJV Ejercito
Member of the
Philippine House of Representatives
for Akbayan
In office
June 30, 2004 – June 30, 2010
Serving with Etta Rosales and Mario Joyo Aguja (2004–2007)
Walden Bello (2007–2010)
Personal details
Ana Theresia Navarro Hontiveros

(1966-02-24) February 24, 1966 (age 55)
Manila, Philippines
Political partyAkbayan (2004–present)
Other political
Liberal (2010)
Team PNoy (2013)
Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid (2016)
Francisco Baraquel Jr.
(m. 1990; died 2005)
RelativesPia Hontiveros (sister)
Barbie Almalbis (cousin)
Alma materAteneo de Manila University (AB)

She is a proponent of LGBT rights bill[3] and an opposition figure against the country's controversial drug war.[4][5] She is the older sister of journalists and television hosts Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar and Pia Hontiveros.

Early lifeEdit

Hontiveros was born on February 24, 1966, in Manila. At age 14, she was part of the Von Trapp children in the Repertory Philippines' adaptation of The Sound of Music, alongside Lea Salonga, Monique Wilson, and Raymond Lauchengco during her childhood.[6] It was also during this period when she was first introduced to activist work as an organizer in the campaign against the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in her high school.[7][8] Hontiveros graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social sciences from the Ateneo de Manila University. While at Ateneo, she was active in the student council, where she participated in advocacies for peace and justice in marginalized communities.[9][10]

She was also a television journalist and news anchor having worked for two television networks in the country, IBC (Headline Trese) and GMA Network (GMA Network News).[11] In Hontiveros' career as an activist, she has been affiliated with a number of organizations and movements:[12][13] Coalition for Peace (served as Secretary-General from 1988 to 1992), National Peace Conference (serving on its Governing Council since 1990), Government Panel for Peace Talks with the National Democratic Front (chairing the Panel's Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms from August 1998 to June 1999), Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas (Pandayan/Forge for a Socialist Philippines), a democratic socialist political organization (re-elected as Chairperson in August 2001), Pilipina, a socialist feminist organization, Amnesty International Pilipinas (member of the board of directors), and Institute for Politics and Governance.

Political careerEdit

House of RepresentativesEdit

Hontiveros first entered politics as the third nominee of Akbayan Party-list in the 2004 national elections. She is one of the prominent opposition figures of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, especially during the height of the Hello Garci controversy of 2005.[14] In the International Women's Day of 2006, she was arrested and brought to Camp Caringal in Quezon City without warrant despite the peaceful nature of the assembly marking the global event.[15] Hontiveros eventually became Akbayan's first nominee in the 2007 Midterm Elections. She was a member of the House Minority as well as the following Committees in the 14th Congress: Appropriations, Ethics and Privileges, Foreign Affairs, Good Government and Public Accountability, Health, Higher and Technical Education, Human Rights, Natural Resources, Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, People Participation, Rules, Trade and Industry, Women and Gender Equality.

Successful pieces of legislation that were crafted and filed by Hontiveros in Congress include the Cheaper Medicines Law that lowers the cost of essential medicines by allowing parallel importation and compulsory licensing, and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) Law that extends the old CARP Law as well as provides a program better suited to the needs of the farmers and the agrarian reform beneficiaries. Hontiveros's legislative track record also include, among others, the Anti-Prostitution Bill that aims to look at prostitution as a symptom of inequitable and exploitative social structures and prostitutes, the Gender Balance Bill that aims to ensure women's representation in all structures of governance, and the Students' Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Bill that aims to promote and protect students' liberties at all levels and in both public and private schools.[16]

Senate bidsEdit

Hontiveros displaying Corazon Aquino's iconic laban (fight) hand symbol after joining the Liberal Party in their campaign in the 2010 elections.

Running under the ticket of then-Senator Benigno Aquino III, Hontiveros placed 13th overall in the senatorial race – almost making it to the top 12 in the 2010 national elections. Following her graceful defeat in the elections, she remained active in numerous issues concerning the marginalized and the abuses of the previous administration. She became a prominent figure alongside Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pia Cayetano in the nationwide campaign for the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, which she co-authored during her stint in Congress.

Running under the Team PNoy ticket, Hontiveros ran again for a Senate seat in the 2013 midterm election. However, she lost for the second time, placing 17th in the Senate race. Her campaign slogan was Paglalaban ka, aalagaan ka, which reflected the gains from the enactment of the RH Law and the continuing struggle for universal health care and good governance. In the aftermath, Hontiveros acknowledged Senator Osmena's observation of her mixed messages in the campaign may have been the reason for her loss.[17]

In December 2014, Hontiveros was inducted as a trustee of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation board.[18][19] She served as trustee until 2015.[citation needed]


Hontiveros makes her first privilege speech before the Senate. 2016

Hontiveros ran again for Senator and won in the 2016 election under the Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid of President Benigno Aquino III. Landing 9th place, she was proclaimed a Senator-elect by the Philippine Commission on Elections, sitting en banc as National Board of Canvassers, on May 19, 2016.[20][21] Her platform is activism for equality and justice for all. Her focus legislation covers health, women's rights, LGBT rights, children's rights, environment, fishermen's rights, farmers' rights, government reforms, positive activism, and students' rights.

Hontiveros is part of the coalition of congresspersons and senators that filed Senate Bill No. 935 or the SOGIE Equality Bill, which has been neglected in Congress for more than 16 years. In November 2016, Hontiveros, along with hundreds of progressive groups, protested the sudden burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.[22]

In 2017, she vowed to prioritize bills on longer maternity leave and anti-hospital deposit, while continuing to pursue the Anti-Discrimination Bill.[23] Hontiveros authored Senate Bill No. 1345, or the Philippine Mental Health Bill, which aims to create a mental health law for the Philippines by integrating mental health care services and programs into the nation's public health system and ensuring its availability in all hospitals nationwide. The bill was filed on February 17, 2017, and passed the Senate on May 2.[24][25] The Philippine Mental Health Law was enacted in June 2018.[26]

A staunch activist against the re-imposition of the death penalty, Hontiveros, along with key senators, announced in February 2017 that they will block any attempt to legislate such a law after the lower house of congress passed their version of the bill.[27] On February 24, Hontiveros condemned the arrest of senator Leila de Lima, calling it an "outright political persecution and a travesty of the country's justice system".[28] On July 22, 2017, during the special joint session of the Congress for the extension of martial law in Mindanao, Hontiveros was among the four senators who voted against the motion. She contended that there are other existing laws that can help government forces fight against the Maute terrorists. She added: "I cannot trust a government that has played God with the lives of 8,000 to 12,000 Filipinos to wield martial law judiciously".[29] On August 16, the Shooting of Kian delos Santos occurred. Hontiveros, a consistent figure against the deadly Philippine Drug War which has killed at least 20,000 as claimed by Senator Antonio Trillanes[30] Filipinos, condemned the event.[31] She was one of the main initiators of a Senate investigation against the police personnel that killed Delos Santos. She also took legal custody of the witnesses of the case, with proper written consent from the minor and their parents, after fears of police retaliation against the witness surfaced.[32]

Hontiveros was principal author and sponsor of Republic Act No. 10932, or the "Act strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law", which increases the penalties for hospitals that demand deposits or advance payments before administering basic emergency services.[33][34][35][36]

In September 2017, Hontiveros caught justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II drafting fabricated charges against her through text messages during a hearing on the deaths of minors caused by the Philippine Drug War. Aguirre's text messages instructed former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto Paras, a member of controversial group VACC, to 'expedite' cases against Hontiveros, a sitting senator. The same tactic was used by Aguirre against senator Leila de Lima, which led to de Lima's arrest a few months past. The revelation was protested nationwide as instead of focusing on the murder case, Duterte's justice secretary was focusing on how to imprison Hontiveros.[37][38] Despite being caught and the evidences presented in halls of Senate, Aguirre still filed cases against Hontiveros in October.[37][38] On September 13, 2017, Hontiveros, along with key senators, vowed to convince their House counterparts to restore the proposed P678-million budget of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, which criticized Duterte's deadly drug war, for 2018. The House downgraded the commission's budget to only 1,000 pesos. The budget was eventually restored after major appeals from the public and the Senate.[39]

In December 2017, Hontiveros became one of the recipients of the first-ever Ripple Awards, which are given to 'brave individuals who have made a significant impact in spreading HIV-AIDS awareness, stopping the spread of the virus, and helping to fight the stigma suffered by their communities.'[40]

Hundreds of fake news have been posted in Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube against Hontiveros, after she strongly expressed her dissent over president Duterte's Philippine Drug War, martial law declarations, Lumad school bombing orders, and attacks against women, LGBTs, and indigenous peoples. Some of the fake news on Facebook has been taken down after public outrage, but those in YouTube have remained rampant.[41] The production of fake news against Hontiveros has been continuous, propagating in numerous social media apps. Various fact-checking national news networks have aided in denouncing the proliferation of fake news.[42][41]

In May 2018, Hontiveros blasted the presidential palace for its 'sheepish response' on China's blatant intrusions and exploitation in the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise.[43] On May 11, Hontiveros condemned the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, calling it a ‘stab to Constitution's heart’.[44]

In July 2018, the Senate passed a bill providing mandatory PhilHealth coverage for people with disabilities (PWDs). The bill is sponsored and principally authored by Hontiveros.[45] On the same month, another law authored by Hontiveros, the Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act, which sought to address hunger and undernutrition among children aged 3 up to those in Grade 6, was enacted.[46] On August 16, 2018, a year after the murder of Kian delos Santos, Hontiveros filed a resolution seeking to declare every August 16 as a "National Day of Remembrance" for all the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under the Duterte government's war on drugs in commemoration of Kian delos Santos.[47]

On September 20, 2018, Hontiveros slammed President Duterte, calling him the 'real destabilizer', after President Duterte accused numerous progressive universities and Liberal opposition figures of an October destabilization plot which sought to oust him from office.[48] When the alleged plot did not happen in October, Duterte afterwards made the same accusations in November and December, despite both the military and the police force clearing all universities and Liberal opposition figures from the alleged ouster plot.[49][50] On September 24, 2018, Hontiveros exposed the 2 billion peso 'tara' system profit of military general Jason Aquino, who was appointed by Duterte as head of the country's National Food Authority.[51] In October 2018, the proposed Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017, principally authored and sponsored by Hontiveros, passed in the Senate.[52] The bill passed in the House in January 2019, and is awaiting a bicameral meeting for it to become a law.[53]

In November 2018, Hontiveros received the Equality Champion Award from Lagablab Network for her push for equality laws in the Senate and for her fight against SOGIE-based discrimination in the country.[54] On the same month, Hontiveros reiterated that the influx of illegal Chinese workers in the Philippines is an ‘assault in sovereignty and economy’.[55] Hontiveros has also appealed numerous times for government to 'stop normalizing rape, sexual abuse' amidst president Duterte's sexually provocative remarks and tirades that objectifies women and LGBTs.[56] In December, Hontiveros voted against the extension of martial law in Mindanao for the second year in a row.[57]

In January 2019, Republic Act 11166 or the HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 passed into law. Hontiveros was the principal author and sponsor of the law in the Senate. The new HIV law aids in expanding access to evidence-based HIV strategies and facilitate easier access to learning about one's HIV status. The passage of the law was lauded by the World Health Organization.[58] On the same month, Hontiveros filed the divorce bill in the Senate.[59] The Philippines is one of only two countries in the world that has yet to legalize divorce, the other being the Vatican.[60] Majority of Filipinos support the proposed divorce bill.[61] Hontiveros was a key opposition figure against the lowering of the minimum age of criminality which president Duterte initially wanted to be 9 years of age.[62] She was awarded the Silver Rose Award by SOLIDAR, a European network of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on January 29 in recognition of her contributions "to social justice and solidarity."[63] Hontiveros was cited as "a progressive politician who is fighting for ideals and freedom in the Philippines."[64] On February 8, Hontiveros called on PAO chief Persida Acosta to resign over her 'scaremongering' campaign against vaccination,[65] which led to a measles outbreak that killed more than 55 children (including infants) and infected more than a thousand.[66][67][68] The infection rate also increased by 550% according to the Department of Health.[69]

On July 19, 2019, the PNPCriminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed charges against Hontiveros and other members of the opposition for "sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice".[70][71] On February 10, 2020, she was cleared of all charges.[72][73]

On August 7, 2020, Hontiveros sought for the creation of an anti-overpricing body to guard PhilHealth spending.[74] On August 11, 2020, Hontiveros initiated an investigation regarding the corruption and mafia system in PhilHealth under the administration of the secretary for health, Francisco Duque III.[75] She also urged an investigation about the illegal activities of Chinese men, which includes prostitution, in a casino at Clark.[76] Hontiveros also called for an independent investigation on the murder of Anakpawis chairman Randall Echanis.[77] On August 18, Hontiveros urged the Department of Health to withdraw the memorandum that suspended the special risk allowance (SRA) of public health workers.[78] She has backed the passage of the Magna Carta for Seafarers,[79] as well as the establishment of more medical schools in state universities and colleges.[80] On August 26, Hontiveros again urged President Duterte to speak out and lay down plans to protect the Philippines from China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea.[81] On the same day, she also sought relief for the victims and the family of the victims in the Jolo bombings.[82] She also urged government to speed-up the digital infrastructure support for MSME's during the pandemic.[83] By the end of August, she urged the presidential palace to drop the Chinese firms involved in building military installations in the territories of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.[84] She also sought to probe the mass importation of PPE's.[85] On September 7, Hontiveros criticized President Duterte's declaration of absolute pardon for the US Marine who has been convicted in the homicide of trans Filipina, Jennifer Laude, calling the president's move an "affront not only to the LGBTQI+ community but to the Filipino people."[86]


Hontiveros' legislative agenda focuses on health, education, women's rights, LGBT rights, and basic civil liberties. The following are select laws authored and sponsored by Hontiveros. The list excludes non-principally written laws that were supported by Hontiveros such as the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, Balik Scientist Act, Climate Change Law, Clean Air Act, Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, National Cultural Heritage Act, Occupational Safety and Health Standards Law, and Filipino Sign Language Act. It also excludes the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which Hontiveros campaigned for during her post-House years.

  • Republic Act 9502 – Cheaper and Quality Medicines Law – significantly decreased the cost of quality medicines in the country.[87]
  • Republic Act 9700 – Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension With Reforms (CARPER) Law[88] – improved the agrarian reform program of government.
  • Republic Act 10932 – Act Strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law – strengthened the penalties against hospitals who violate the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law.[89][90]
  • Republic Act 11036 – Philippine Mental Health Law – safeguards the mental health of Filipino citizens through education, medical advancements, and other support systems.[91][92]
  • Republic Act 11037 – Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act[46] – addresses hunger and undernutrition among children aged 3 up to those in Grade 6.
  • Republic Act 11166 – HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018[58] – expands access to evidence-based HIV strategies and facilitates easier access to learning about one's HIV status.
  • Republic Act 11210 – Expanded Maternity Leave Law[93] – increases the maternity leave period and expands the benefits of working mothers.
  • Republic Act (TBA) – Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act[53] – protects Filipinos (notably women) from catcalling, groping, persistent requests, and other forms of street harassment.

Awards and RecognitionEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Hontiveros's husband, Francisco Baraquel Jr., died in May 2005 after suffering from a heart attack due to severe asthma. They have four children together.[10][95] Her nephew, Luis Hontiveros, was a housemate on the regular edition of Pinoy Big Brother: Lucky 7.[96]

Having served as a journalist for ten years before venturing into politics, Hontiveros is a recipient of the Kapisanan ng Mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas' Golden Dove Award for Best Female Newscaster. Because of her work in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front, she also received the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Peace and Advocacy in 2001, and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005.[97]


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