DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 March) — The celebration of March as National Women’s Month always brings about welcome media features about notable women, some in the limelight for the work they do, as well as others who quietly do the work in the background, but whose work remains indispensable to women’s progress. Clearly women’s work should in fact be lauded all year round, but March also gives us the opportunity to examine what else needs to be done in order to uplift the condition of women in the country. This has become especially stark during the Duterte administration.
Much has been written (and posted) about President Duterte and his predilection for ‘getting rid’ of the strong women who stand in his way: Senator Leila de Lima, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, journalist Pia Ranada, as well as women revolutionaries whom he had directly threatened with violence. While the president can claim that he has no direct hand in the cases hounding these women, no one will dispute that given the supermajority he currently has in Congress and the Supreme Court, he does have the power. This pattern has brought about the hashtag #EveryWoman to bring home the point that the persecution of these high-profile women redounds to the detriment of every Filipino woman.
On the other hand, one can also say that Duterte actually loves women, as his daughter Sara explained during the Women’s Summit in Davao, if he could, he would ask his girlfriend to “spoon-feed” him in public. I suspect she meant it literally, but I cannot help but refer to the word’s figurative meaning, “treated with excessive solicitude; pampered.” Thus, it comes as no surprise that he surrounds himself with only a particular kind of woman.
Take for instance, Assistant Secretary for Social Media, Mocha Uson, whose only qualification for the job, it seems, is her 5.6 million followers on Facebook, whom she fondly calls, ‘Ka-DDS’ or ‘co-Duterte Diehard Supporters’ (but it is also a double-entendre referring to the original DDS, ‘Davao Death Squad,’ suggesting support for extrajudicial killings). Love her or hate her, she is a force we all have to contend with in this regime. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has even declared her a role model for Filipino women because of how she has changed her life: “nagdesisyon siyang magbagong-buhay at talaga namang nagpu-pursige dito sa kanyang bagong buhay.” He further explained that her past as a sexy entertainer should not be taken against her because she only went into it in order to survive and that everyone deserves a second chance.
Well, how convenient. It’s actually stuff for a television melodrama. I can imagine how that past might look depicted on TV, considering the titillating photos circulating in social media, of her letting men fondle her breasts, or her fondling men’s crotches, or even donning a nun’s habit, holding a dildo instead of a crucifix. But look at her now, attending conferences in the United Nations and elsewhere, representing the Philippines, speaking for all of us women, being the model for all who seek a second chance—#EveryWoman.
No. No. No.
Roque is wrong as usual in twisting the facts to suit the agenda of the administration. But he has signed up for the benefits of the whole shebang and must do his job. I wonder though how the Human Rights lawyer deep inside him reacts to the fallacies of reasoning he spews out constantly. “I object!” it probably screams. Or not.
First of all, not every woman has chosen to sell her body in order to survive. Right now, I can safely assume that millions of Filipinas living under the poverty line has chosen other alternatives to working as prostituted women. Many have opted to become domestic workers here or abroad, some suffering grave abuse from their employers. Others work in factories, enduring unfair labor practices. Still others have stayed in farms, tilling the land. Besides, I don’t think Uson came from abject conditions, having a college degree from the University of Sto.Tomas (UST).
Second, has Mocha really changed her life? Or is this only a change of costume? Some allege that the work she does for this administration is similar to the work she used to do as an entertainer. Photos of her celebrating with Sen. Bongbong Marcos (along with other pro-admin social media influencers) only serve to fan the flames of these allegations. And the public outcry against the distinguished alumna award she received from the UST Alumni Association shows the general sentiment that Mocha Uson is not a true role model for anyone, except her very own ka-DDS.
In the spirit of National Women’s Month, how about we each make a list of women we do consider as role models?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz is an award-winning writer who teaches literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines-Mindanao in Davao City and is a columnist of Mindanao Times. This piece was first published in the Mindanao Times issue of March 13, 2018. Follow or message her on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz)