And he’s No. 1
THE MAN says that it wasn’t even a joke, that he wasn’t smiling, that he spoke out of anger and what came out was something “called for at the moment.” Thus, he has dismissed the outrage over his rape remarks at a campaign rally last week as much hoo-ha over nothing, “gutter language” that he attributes to his supposed class background: “’Di naman ako anak ng conyo .” (I am not a scion of the elite.)
The story of the 1989 hostage-taking by inmates of the Davao City detention center, which led to the deaths of some of them and their hostages, including Australian lay missionary Jacqueline Hamill, is apparently part of the standard stump speech of Rodrigo Duterte. There are at least two video clips online showing that he has told the story on two different occasions—down to the now-infamous punch line about seeing Hamill’s corpse after the hostage-taking and thinking: “…Ni-rape nila, pinagpilahan nila doon. Nagalit ako kasi ni-rape? Oo, isa rin ’yun. Pero napakaganda, dapat ang mayor muna ang mauna. Sayang.” (Son of a b*****, what a waste. I was thinking that they raped her and lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.) He told the story to two different audiences, but essentially for the same purpose: to buff his image as a fearless, Dirty-Harry-type mayor who, at one point in the crisis, reportedly offered himself as a hostage in place of a captive boy, and later had no qualms ordering the summary execution of the hostage-takers.
In the two instances, when Duterte reaches the climax of his tale and makes his point—“dapat mayor muna ang mauna”—the reaction from the crowd is the same: loud hooting and laughter. It’s another tale of derring-do from the tough-talking phenom from Davao, the Filipinos’ supposed “huling baraha”—last card—as he has billed himself in another campaign sortie. And voters thrilled by his racy, ribald ways, women as much as men, are sucking up this blast of coarse, unfiltered air from a star politician.
Hamill’s family members, however, were sufficiently appalled that they posted a statement on social media taking Duterte to task for his remarks. The tragedy that befell them—losing Hamill to the most horrific crime of gang-rape and murder in a country where she had gone in good faith for missionary work—happened 26 years ago; it must have been a long, excruciating process to put the pain behind them and move forward. They have every right to be livid at someone in Manila, over two decades later, subjecting the memory of their loved one to this fresh indignity: the story of her death trotted out for political mileage, and in the most callous, offhand manner, designed to glorify its storyteller while eliciting snickers from an adoring crowd.
Was this man angry at the crime of rape visited on Hamill, as he now claims? Watch the videos again, and see if that is the demeanor of a man roused to fury at the recollection of an abominable crime committed during his watch. What a reasonable viewer is wont to see, instead, is a politician cynically using a tragedy of which he has personal knowledge not only as a talking point to highlight his take-no-prisoners approach to peace and order problems, but also as comic relief, a gag. The mayor wanting first dibs at the lovely victim—what a joke, this guy’s funny, hee-haw, let’s vote for him!
This is how poor folk talk and horse around, Duterte says in defense. Yet it’s curious that, 26 years later, what he remembers of that incident—enough to repeat it on at least two instances—is still his desire, a joke or otherwise, to enjoy the privilege of precedence over the victim. That idea does not happen to come from the peasantry: Droit du seigneur was an ancient privilege enjoyed by feudal lords over the women in their realm. In this country, the most heinous documented case along that mindset was the gang-rape in 1993 of UP student Eileen Sarmenta, who was abducted and presented as a gift by henchmen of Mayor Antonio Sanchez of Calauan, Laguna, to their boss before they had their way with her. It was, said the sentencing judge, “a plot seemingly hatched in hell.”
Predictably, many of Duterte’s supporters are echoing their candidate in pooh-poohing the public shock over his remarks as mere partisan posturing, or people being “too sensitive.” This is the man that the latest surveys say is the front-runner in the race for president.
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