Marawi City’s executive judge is an empowered Muslim woman


Although the number of Muslim women holding important positions in government has been steadily increasing, there are barriers still to hurdle as they seek wider representation in institutions that were once dominated by men.

This was conveyed by Attorney Wenida Balt Macugar-Papandayan, who is herself an empowered woman. A highly esteemed member of the Philippine judiciary, Atty. Papandayan is the Executive Judge of the First and Second Level Courts of Marawi City. She has marveled at the fact that other women have embarked on successful careers in the various branches of government.  

“The role of women has changed considerably since the time I was just a child. Women now have more opportunities for education, employment and leadership roles. There is still progress to be made but we have come a long way,” she said.

Muslim women, she pointed out, are enjoying more liberties today. “But there are still challenges and barriers along the way. It is important to recognize the diversity within the Muslim community and support the rights and empowerment of all women. For me, it does not matter whether you are Muslim or not. Women should be respected regardless of their race, color, or religion,” she said.

Outstanding prosecutor

Born in 1969, Atty. Papandayan was raised in San Fernando, Pampanga, but she finished her college and obtained her law degree in Mindanao. She earned her degree in Bachelor of Science in Biology at Notre Dame University in Cotabato City and took up her Bachelor of Laws at Mindanao State University in Marawi City where she graduated cum laude in 1995. She passed the bar exams that same year.

Because of her many accomplishments as judge and traditional leader and social advocate, Atty. Papandayan was named Woman of the Year in 2021 by the Federation of Lanao 2-Away Radio Groups for Peace and Development.

The young attorney showed her mettle as a member of the Judiciary when she worked as state prosecutor of the Department of Justice. She was designated Provincial Prosecutor of Sultan Kudarat. She also served the Provincial Prosecution Office of Misamis Oriental and the City Prosecution Office of Cagayan de Oro. 

In 2009, she was named one of the Outstanding Prosecutors for her work as the investigating prosecutor in extra-judicial killings and for her work with the Witness Protection Program of the DoJ, which was then headed by Secretary Raul Gonzales. At the end of 2009, her career as a judge commenced when she was appointed presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 of Marawi City.

Family ties

Despite her hectic work schedule, Atty. Papandayan is active when it comes to her family roots and heritage. She is a traditional leader and has been enthroned Bai a Labi sa Pantao a Tubok. She succeeded her paternal grandmother who held the throne until her demise. Presently, she is the incumbent elected president of the Federation of Women Royalty of Lanao Incorporated, an organization of women traditional leaders.

A mother of five children and grandmother to seven, Atty. Papandayan is married to Datu Sangkalangit Papandayan. He also finished his formal education at Mindanao State University and is a certified public accountant.

As a presiding judge of a Regional Trial Court, she said managing a career and raising a family is “truly challenging.”

“But with the support of your family, especially your husband, and along with proper time management, life is easier and happier. I cannot agree more that women can have both a successful career and a happy home. No doubt about it,” she said.

Champion of women’s rights

Aside from her duties in the judiciary and as a traditional leader, Atty. Papandayan is also a champion of women’s rights and welfare. She also happens to be the elected vice president of the Philippine Muslim Women Council Incorporated.

 “It is the very reason why Women’s Month is very significant for me. Women’s Month reminds me of the importance of fighting for your rights not only for women but for every human being,” she said. 

As president of the Federation of Women Royalty, Atty. Papandayan has embarked on a number of projects relevant to the observance of Women’s Month. Among them is an Islamic seminar and pre-Ramadan distribution of food packs to deserving families.

Because of her many accomplishments as judge and traditional leader and social advocate, Atty. Papandayan was named Woman of the Year in 2021 by the Federation of Lanao 2-Away Radio Groups for Peace and Development. The award is a recognition of her numerous accomplishments in her career and as an empowered woman of Mindanao. She is one of the founding members of HUKOM Inc., an organization of first and second level court Judges and Regional Director of the Philippine Judges Association for 12th Judicial Region.