A storm of another kind
As we reeled from the devastating effects of Typhoons “Rolly” and “Ulysses,” we also witnessed a storm of another kind — one characterized by strong sexist and misogynistic words spewed from the presidential mouth.
We are no strangers to this display of oral fireworks from President Duterte. Even in formal events like the annual State of the Nation Address, Mr. Duterte has made his mark as the Chief Executive who has been blipped several times on national television because of his frequent uttering of cuss words and expletives. His weekly briefings to the media have also become rambling rumination sessions, peppered with derogatory remarks about people who got on his bad side.
And women—strong, assertive women like Sen. Leila de Lima and Vice President Leni Robredo—are among the targets of his blame games, tirades, sexist and misogynistic remarks.
Even the dead from the dreaded COVID-19 have not escaped his sick sexist jokes. In a media briefing last Nov. 15, Mr. Duterte said that one victim he personally knew and who died from the coronavirus “lacked women.”
All these have not escaped the attention of women’s organizations, especially the Women and Gender Institute (Wagi). Theresa de Vela of Wagi reacted strongly to Mr. Duterte’s sexist remarks, saying that “…they are a step back in the country’s efforts to fight sexism.”
Ironically, it was Mr. Duterte who signed Republic Act No. 11313, or the Safe Spaces Act, also known as the “bawal bastos” law. Authored principally by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, this law penalizes catcalling, wolf-whistling, making sexist and misogynistic remarks, subjecting women to sexual harassment, and other acts that denigrate the human rights of women, especially when they are committed in public and online spaces.
Mr. Duterte signed this law on April 17, 2019. Its implementing rules and regulations were signed sometime later, with the law taking effect in August 2019.
But women’s organizations, foremost among them the Gabriela party list, decried that the law is quite challenging to implement because the Chief Executive is considered the embodiment of sexism. In one statement, Gabriela expressed that
Mr. Duterte is “…the chief propagator of a culture that degrades and objectifies women.” It can be recalled that the President once ordered soldiers to shoot female New People’s Army members in the vagina, so they will no longer beget children who will become rebels in the future.
Even early in his presidency, the President has received a lot of flak for sexist comments on a “beautiful” Australian missionary who was raped, and that he should have been the first in line to do it, before some soldiers did.
His current word war with the Vice President again brings to the fore his misogynistic bent, arguing that the latter has been undermining his leadership, falsely accusing her of starting the #NasaanAngPangulo social media posts, and of going home to a house not her own, alluding to some illicit relationship. Such remarks did not escape one of his harshest critics, detained Senator De Lima, who was reported to say that in times of crisis, the President manifests his insecurity with Leni who is “diligent, effective, and useful,” and that his “sickening misogyny is beyond reputation.”
Early in President Duterte’s administration, his petulant spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, used to justify the President’s sexist and misogynistic remarks as just part of his style of cracking jokes in any gathering. The current presidential yarn spinner, Harry Roque, “mansplains” these remarks made against the Vice President as part of the President’s way of “lightening the mood” so we will feel better after having gone through depressing events like being hit by typhoons one after the other.
Hearing all these “kabastusan” from no less than our Chief Executive has not made us feel any better at all. And Roque’s justification of such acts is as sickening and depressing as experiencing typhoons.
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