Rape no laughing matter under any context | Inquirer Opinion
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Rape no laughing matter under any context

Rape, as presidential aspirant Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has hopefully learned, is not a laughing matter. He is not alone in receiving flak for a joke about rape.

Three years ago, during a concert, comedian Vice Ganda warmed up with “fat jokes” at the expense of a TV anchor of the rival TV network, then carried away by the laughter, he slipped and said: “Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbo-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin ng rapist, ‘Ipasa ang lechon.’ Sasabihin naman ni Jessica, ‘Eh nasaan ’yung apple?’” (It’d be difficult if Jessica Soho goes bold. It’s got to be gang rape all the time. The rapist will say, “Pass the roast pig!” Jessica will reply, “But where’s the apple?”)


After a firestorm in social media, Soho thanked the people who spoke up for her and added: “This should not be about me but about rape victims who suffer tremendously from this terrible crime. The horrors they go through are unspeakable and should never be taken lightly, especially by way of a cruel joke.”

There are two differences between the two jokes. First, Vice Ganda was man enough to apologize to Soho and the public; Mayor Duterte resorted to vainly explaining the context of the rape joke instead of issuing an apology. Second, Vice Ganda’s rape joke had no connection to reality and a real victim; Duterte’s joke was made at the expense of an Australian missionary who was gang raped and killed during a prison hostage crisis in 1989. Duterte’s joke is, therefore, more revolting. Worse, is the tinge of necrophilia in Duterte’s joke, because his reaction upon seeing the corpse of the victim was not of pity or even sympathy but the wish that as mayor he should have been first in line to violate the victim.


Throw back to the Gulf War in 1990, when then Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus left a Senate investigation on the plight of women OFWs raped by Iraqi soldiers during the conflict. Using his trademark “Arneow accent,” he gave this advice to women OFWs threatened with rape: “If rape is inevitable, just lie back and enjoy it.” It was one tasteless and cruel joke that tarnished his career, which was good enough because Manglapus was not disowned by Cory Aquino and her Cabinet. Manglapus was not disowned by his Jesuit-run alma mater either.

Throw back to the Second World War, when Japanese soldiers raped and killed many Filipino women. One of the victims who lived to retell their nightmares was Maria Rosa Henson of Pampanga, the first of the Filipino comfort women to speak up. This excerpt from her first person account, “Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny,” which was published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 1996, reads:

“Without warning, a Japanese soldier entered my room and pointed his bayonet at my chest. I thought he was going to kill me, but he used his bayonet to slash my dress and tear it open. I was too frightened to scream. And then he raped me. When he was done, other soldiers came into my room and they took turns raping me.

“Twelve soldiers raped me in quick succession, after which I was given half an hour to rest. Then twelve more soldiers followed. They all lined up outside the room waiting for their turn. I bled so much and was in such pain, I could not even stand up. The next morning, I was too weak to get up. A woman brought me a cup of tea and breakfast of rice and dried fish. I wanted to ask her some questions, but the guard in the hall outside stopped us from saying anything to each other.

“I could not eat. I felt much pain and my vagina was swollen. I cried and cried, calling my mother. I could not resist the soldiers because they might kill me. So what else could I do? Every day, from two in the afternoon to ten in the evening, the soldiers lined up outside my room and the rooms of the six other women there. I did not have time to wash after each assault. At the end of the day, I just closed my eyes and cried.”

Throw back to the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War, from which we have been taught that everything bad that happens to the Philippines and to Filipinos is always the fault of the enemy. Things were not as simple as black and white. Toward the end of Apolinario Mabini’s “La Revolucion Filipina,” he said:

“I shall not end these remarks to my countrymen without putting on record the boundless disgust I felt whenever I heard of the rape of Filipinas by Filipino soldiers. I admit these were isolated cases, very difficult to prevent in times of general disorder and uncontrolled outbreak of passions, but I am sure that the first instances would not have been repeated if the commanders had punished such outrages energetically and without hesitation. How shall we get foreigners to respect our women when we ourselves set the example of offending them? Can Filipino men expect to be respected when out women are not…”


Then of course, the catalog of rape in the Philippines will not be complete without mention of Gregoria de Jesus, wife of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio, who was raped by Col. Agapito Bonzon. The colonel was neither investigated nor punished by Emilio Aguinaldo for this crime. The rape of Gregoria de Jesus is one of the heart-rending episodes of the Philippine Revolution and deserves full and separate treatment. From the above alone, we should all feel disgust for rape and censure those who make light of it because rape is no laughing matter under any context.

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TAGS: Elections 2016, Jessica Soho, joke, Rape, raul manglapus, Rodrigo Duterte, vice ganda
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