DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 June) – The “sexism and misogyny” of President Rodrigo Duterte “has become a norm,” a women’s rights advocate said on Monday.
Gabriela Southern Mindanao chair Jean Lindo, reacting to Duterte’s kissing of an overseas Filipina worker in South Korea on the lips on Sunday, called the act “disgusting.”
Duterte met with the Filipino community at the Convention Hall, Grand Hilton and Convention Center, in Seoul, during his official visit to South Korea.
Lindo said Duterte has negated the gains of women’s rights advocates and lawmakers who worked hard to make the Philippines the leading country in terms of gender indices in Asia.
She said she was dismayed by the action of the President, who as mayor of Davao City for 23 years, was instrumental in the passage of the 1997 Women Development Code.
The law mandates the local government to “uphold the rights of women and the belief in their worth and dignity as human beings.”
The law provides that “women shall be recognized as full and equal partners of men in development and nation building and men shall share equal with all forms of productive and reproductive activities.”
Lindo said it should be clear to Duterte what sexual harassment is because he signed the code himself.
“I do not know if the President reads the documents when he signs. I assume he does. He himself signed the Women Development Code. It should be clear to him what sexual harassment is,” she said.
She said the President himself violated several times “the laws promoting gender equality and protecting all forms of violence against women.”
“If you have this situation, this is clearly Rule by Law. Citizens have to obey rules but the authorities violate the same rules. He can use the same law against citizens,” she added.
The President has drawn criticisms for his controversial statements about women.
Earlier, the President said he would order the military to shoot the private parts of female members of the New People’s Army to make them useless, and declared he does not want a woman to lead the Supreme Court or the Office of the Ombudsman.
The SC was led by former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was removed last month by her colleagues via a quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Another woman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, leads the Office of the Ombudsman.
During the campaign in 2016, then presidential candidate Duterte drew flak for his rape joke about Jacqueline Hamill, the Australian lay missionary who was raped and killed during a hostage-taking incident at the Metrodiscom detention center in Davao City in 1989.
Rojean Romanes, outgoing university student council member at the University of Philippines-Mindanao, said Duterte’s action was condemnable and that he was giving them more reason to rage against the “macho-feudalism system.”
Romanes urged the women to join the #BabaeAko campaign on Facebook and Twitter that was launched last week.
She said the campaign has so far earned the support of student leaders from different universities, influential artists, and writers.
“Kaya po iniimbitahan ang lahat ng sumali at sumupurta doon sa (That’s why everybody is invited to join and support the) #BabeAko campaign, for we have all the reasons to rage against the system that continuously subjugates women’s status in our society,” she said.
Environmentalist Chinkie Pelino-Golle, executive director of Davao City-based Interface Development Interventions, said the kissing was unnecessary even if it was just for fun. “He should have not done it.”
On Sunday, Duterte kissed a Filipina on the lips in exchange for “Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church,” a book authored by Aries Rufo, during his meet-up with the Filipino community.
The kissing happened at the tail end of his two-hour and six-minute speech, which was broadcast live on Facebook by the People’s Television Network, after he announced that he was giving away his book that reportedly exposes the misconduct of bishops and priests in the Philippines.
About 24 minutes and 29 seconds into his speech, the President asked the book from his aide. He then told the crowd to believe in God but not in the Catholic Church.
The President’s drug war has been criticized by human rights groups and the Church.
“I would like to just maybe give it to an officer or whatever, I just place it there kung sino mauna (whoever comes first gets it). Huwag yung lalake. May bayad ito – halik (Not a man. This comes with a price – a kiss),” he said.
Two women came up on stage after being teased by the President. He told them to share the book since he only had one copy.
“May dalawa dito umakyat kayo dito (You two come up here). You share to be fair maybe after you. You can finish that in two nights, one night,” he said.
The other woman, holding the book, gave him a cheek-to-cheek but the President insisted to the second woman, who was already uncomfortable, to give him a kiss. The woman said she was married after the President asked her off-mic if she was still single.
“Pero kaya mong sabihin na biro lang? Sige na paselosin mo na (But can you say that it’s just a joke? Let’s make him (husband) jealous,” he told the woman. He drew cheers as he kissed the Filipina from the audience.
Duterte told the crowd to not misconstrue his action, saying he only wanted to entertain the Filipinos.
“Huwag ninyo dibdibin yun, pangsaya ng mga tao (Do not be offended, it was meant to entertain the people), gimmick. I’m every glad to see you. Do not misconstrue that. There’s nothing in it, except I want to be close with my fellowmen and countrymen,” he said.
Duterte left for a three-day official visit to South Korea on Saturday. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)