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At Large

Joking about rape—again

Maybe we shouldn’t be shocked any more by yet another outrageous statement from our motor-mouth of a President. Well, maybe we aren’t shocked or surprised, but certainly, and given the occasion and the historical circumstance, the context of it, we are all the more angry, irate, offended and pained.

Speaking to soldiers who had survived the early skirmishes against self-proclaimed terrorists who had overrun the city of Marawi, the President “joked” on Friday that troopers could “rape up to three women” and he would take responsibility in their place, even do a stint in prison for them.

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Note that the President didn’t say this about soldiers killing or wounding any of the so-called terrorists, or even about violating the human rights of civilians or combatants.

Instead, he brought up the possibility of women being raped by soldiers. Women are, it appears, in his view a “normal” target of abuse in times of war, even by soldiers. Was he not in effect giving the soldiers “permission” to rape any woman they encounter?

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Even more offensive is the interpretation by some media outlets that Mr. Duterte made the comments about rape in jest “to lift the spirits of troops” charged with quelling this latest outrage, which led him to declare martial law throughout the island of Mindanao.

Whaaat? Assurance of being exonerated should they commit crimes in the course of putting down the occupation of Marawi—specifically of getting away with rape—is all our soldiers and police need to lift their morale? Are we counting on defenders of democracy, or thugs obeying the harebrained orders of their boss, as we battle this terroristic outrage?

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What makes Mr. Duterte’s remarks, even if, or especially if, he was joking, is that he made them in Marawi, which is one of the most conservative areas of Muslim Mindanao that has, of late, become even more fundamentalist.

Surely, the Maranaw who are the majority among the residents of Marawi will not take the mention of rape—especially when issuing forth from the mouth of a sitting President—as a joke or as a means of lifting the spirits of soldiers.

There are so many questions being raised about the need to declare martial law throughout Mindanao, with a very imminent threat of the declaration covering the Visayas and Luzon as well. But the President’s attempt at humor at the expense of women needs to be denounced immediately.

Noteworthy is the fact that, instead of calling for immediate aid for the hapless civilians fleeing Marawi and facing shortages of water, food, medicines and other necessities, not to mention risking their lives as they flee through combat zones, the President instead chose to provoke laughter at the expense of women. For that he declared martial law?

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Of all the disinformation attempts spurred by the situation in Marawi, perhaps the most egregious was the “revelation” that Sen. Bam Aquino was “suspiciously” present in the city the day before the conflict broke out. This led to speculation that either Aquino alone, or the Liberal Party and even a conglomeration of Duterte opposition forces, conspired with the Maute Group to launch the destabilization attempt.

Now it turns out that Senator Bam was in Marawi on the invitation of the government itself. More specifically, the Department of Trade and Industry had to issue a clarification that Aquino, “along with stakeholders in the military, the business sector and the local government,” was in Marawi to attend the launch of the Negosyo (Business) Center of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the first in the ARMM but the 508th such center in the country.

Senator Bam had to be there, being the author of the Go Negosyo Law that directs the DTI to establish the centers in all municipalities “to give micro and small entrepreneurs access to entrepreneurship education, mentorship, money and markets.”

Malice, my old journalism teachers taught us, is simply “knowing that something is not true but going ahead and publishing it as the truth.” The “alternative fact-ers” in this case are certainly guilty of malice, but in this age of trolls and antisocial media, can we expect anything better from them?

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TAGS: At Large, Inquirer Opinion, Marawi siege, Mindanao martial law, Rape joke, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte
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