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To hell or ignominy?

“Go to hell” was the off-the-cuff remark of Davao City Mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte in reaction to news that nine women and men, representing different NGOs working for women’s and human rights, had filed a case against him in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The filing of the case was based most recently on Duterte’s remarks recounting his reaction upon seeing the body of Australian lay missionary Jacqueline Hamill who had been held hostage and then killed in a standoff with troopers. According to the mayor, seeing how lovely—“like a movie actress”—Hamill was, he was angered not just because she had been gang-raped by the prisoners but also because “she was so beautiful” and he rued that they should have let the mayor (himself) have a go first.

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But the complaint went beyond this single incident and cited other times when Duterte “arrogantly flaunts his power over (women) and diminishes their worth as human beings.”

The complainants accused Duterte of violating the Magna Carta of Women, which formally recognizes that “women’s rights are human rights.”

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The Magna Carta assigns to the state the role of “primary duty bearer” to respect and protect women’s rights, and so, as a government official, Duterte, said the complaint, violated “the spirit and letter” of the law, “blatantly (violating) women’s human rights, “as evidenced by his demeaning language and insulting treatment of them.”

By his actions, said the complainants, the Davao mayor “blatantly disregards all (the gains made by) women, and puts in peril the future of many children and young women who are potential victims of violence against women.” They asked: “What protection and redress would they expect in a society where men tolerate such violation?”

They thus asked the CHR to “investigate the actuations and find Mr. Duterte as having violated the rights sanctioned by the Magna Carta of Women.” Go to hell? If the case prospers and gets a favorable hearing, Duterte may end up, if not yet in hell, then at least behind cold, steel prison bars.

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With less than a month left before the voting on May 9, it’s iffy if this case and the outcry raised against the mayor’s recent remarks—and the pattern of offensive words and behavior toward women during the campaign—would have an impact on his chances at the polls.

But it’s still worth putting it on record, I believe, that many folk raised their voices and even risked political capital to make themselves heard.

Among the first to issue a public protest against the Davao City mayor was former Negros Occidental governor Lito Coscolluela, who said that “when you insult women with your vile behavior, I only think of my loving mother, my only daughter, my caring wife and my many decent women relatives and friends. I know they are insulted and I am insulted, too.” Coscolluela then said he believes Duterte’s demeanor is an insult to the Code of Ethics for Public Servants and “I am, thus, taking your insults personally and, I am telling you, I have had enough.” He then added: “I am calling on every decent Filipino to say enough!”

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Another incumbent official, Bulacan Rep. Linabelle Villarica, who chairs the House Committee on Women, denounced “in no uncertain terms the trivialization of rape and rape victims.”

She decried how “a man aspiring (to) the highest office in our land casually made a rape joke amid a very real and tragic situation. You better believe it, the audience laughed. It is chilling to imagine the power that we shall surrender in the hands of this man if elected.”

Addressing other women, Villarica urged: “With our votes let us say NO. We are not to be laughed at when we are raped. NO. We are not to be silenced when we are violated.”

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And now comes a largely male group, representatives of some 33,000 evangelical local churches with millions of members around the country, who said they were “taken aback and aghast that the story (of Hamill) became a laughing matter to your (Duterte’s) supporters and some of the viewing public.”

The evangelical leaders thus joined Catholic bishops who earlier denounced the candidate’s callous remarks.

“This is not about your aspiration to become President of our country, nor anything about politics,” said the pastors. The mayor’s remarks, they said, “is an insult, is offensive and sacrilegious to her family, the Christian Church, the missionary-sending country and the mission society who saw her death as the ultimate sacrifice.”

While saying they would not demand an apology or any sort of action, the pastors said they were leaving Duterte’s fate up to the judgement of God and the Filipino people. As the saying goes: the mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.”

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Though he was writing about the American presidential elections and another candidate—Donald Trump—New York Times columnist David Brooks has words that bear eerie echoes with our own Duterte conundrum. For every mention of Trump, we can very well put Duterte in its place. Says Brooks:

“Trump represents the spread of something brutal. He takes economic anxiety and turns it into sexual hostility.

“I’ve grappled with determining how much to blame Trump’s supporters for his rise. Many of them are victims of economic dislocation and it is hard to fault them for seeking a change, of course, even if it is simplistic and ignorant.

“But in the realm of cultural politics, Trump voters do need to be held to account. They are participating in a descent into darkness. They are supporting a degrading wrong. This is the world your daughters (our daughters!) are going to grow up in.”

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TAGS: callousness, Commission on Human Rights, Donald Trump, Elections 2016, joke, Rape, Rodrigo Duterte
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