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The 'Slut-shaming' Misogyny of the Duterte Administration

“Women’s March” on January 21 in Washington, DC

he idea of a Women’s March in Washington DC first arose on November 9 when a Hawaiian grandmother posted on her Facebook page that she wanted to protest the election of Donald Trump on the day after his inaugural. Her simple suggestion quickly spread like a prairie fire on social media and concrete plans for a January 21 Women’s March on Washington were laid out with the goal of sending a message to Trump and to the world that “women’s rights are human rights”.

According to womensmarch.com (LINK), more than five million people joined the “Women’s March” on January 21 which was held simultaneously in 673 cities in 81 countries around the globe from Australia to Zimbabwe. The Women’s March in Washington D.C. alone drew anywhere from half a million to a million participants, the largest single day mass protest in U.S. history.

Included in the Women’s March website’s list of participating global cities are four cities in Muslim Indonesia (Ubud, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar and Bali). But the website does not include the Philippines.

I asked Lilia Villanueva, a close friend from Bacolod City, why there was no Women’s March in the Philippines. She quickly replied: “Personally, I was too catatonic after inauguration day to organize any protest.  I wore my Hillary cap all day and that was about all the protesting I could muster from Bacolod.  You all know that we've got our pangulo here to deal with, especially his shitty behavior towards VP Robredo and Trump-like witchhunt against Loida Nicolas Lewis. So yes, the Philippines should be leading Asia in protest by women for women but finding that single- and gender-based protests have to be carefully and skillfully crafted to take off successfully.  Dealing with a multi-faceted society with deep cultural roots in religion-based rules on women's place and role, points of unity to get lots of women together have to be well thought out and articulated.”

“A multi-faceted society with deep cultural roots in religion-based rules on women's place and role”

Could this explain why the Philippines was not at the forefront of the Women’s March globally when the women’s issues of sex trafficking and prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest and sexual abuse abound in Philippine society?

The Philippines is shackled by an anachronistic legal system that blatantly discriminates against women. For example, even now in 2017, a married Filipino woman who has “carnal relations” with another man can still be charged with the crime of “adultery” with a penalty of imprisonment for each sexual act committed.

A married Filipino man who has committed a similar offense can only be charged with the crime of “concubinage” but only if it is proven that he “kept a mistress in a conjugal dwelling or shall have sexual intercourse under scandalous circumstances with a woman not his wife.”

If found guilty, the penalty for the erring husband in the Philippines is not imprisonment but “destierro” - “banishment or only a prohibition from residing within the radius of 25 kilometers from the actual residence of the accused for a specified length of time.”

It’s not even a slap on the wrist. In the macho culture of the Philippines, it’s the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

Consider the curious case of Rodrigo Duterte. When he announced his candidacy for president on December 1, 2015, he candidly revealed to the 10,000 supporters who gathered in Taguig City that he had two wives and two girlfriends. He expressed regrets that he had gotten older because when he was younger, he said he could spend the whole night with his girlfriends but now he could only spend “short time” with them.

As the Philippine Daily Inquirer (LINK) reported: “Of his two wives, he said: “I have a wife who is sick. Then I have a second wife, who is from Bulacan.” He said his second wife worked as a nurse in the United States and that she got pregnant after his frequent trips to that country, when he was still a congressman. “I have two girlfriends. One is working as a cashier and the other works for a cosmetics store at a mall. The one working at the cosmetics store is younger. The other one is older but more beautiful.”

In Catholic Philippines, open disclosures about marital infidelities can enhance the political fortunes of candidates. Duterte’s poll ratings increased even as he kissed women supporters on the lips and even grabbed their breasts in public as Trump said he did with another part of the female anatomy.

With less than a month to go before the May 10, 2016 elections, Duterte recounted to a packed Quezon City rally the time when he was mayor of Davao in December of 1989 and the inmates of his city jail had overpowered their guards, grabbed their weapons, and took 15 people, mostly women, including 36-year-old Australian lay minister Jacqueline Hamill, hostage.

He said that by the time he and his men were able to recapture the city jail, the inmates had already raped all the women hostages and had slashed their throats. Duterte said that when the bodies of the victims were laid out for him to examine, he saw the wrapped body of the Australian missionary.

“I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste! What came to mind was, they raped her, they 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.”

It was all a joke to Duterte. Damn those inmates for disrespecting his status as mayor. They should have allowed him to rape the Australian missionary first.

Instead of revulsion, this sick joke propelled Duterte to the presidency.

After assuming the presidency, Duterte surround himself with men unlike the example of his predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, who appointed strong women to top posts: Leila deLima as Secretary of Justice, Lourdes Serrano as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Conchita Carpio-Morales as Ombudsman.

Duterte did have a woman as vice president but only because Leni Robredo from the opposition Liberal Party was elected vice-president over Duterte’s favored candidate, Bongbong Marcos.

At first Duterte refused calls to appoint Robredo to a cabinet posit as custom and tradition dictated. Public clamor eventually caused him to appoint Robredo to head the housing council.

But boys will be boys. Duterte told the press that he was unable to concentrate on anything Robredo said at cabinet meetings because he was too distracted by her legs. 

The Gabriela Women’s Party denounced Duterte for his remarks declaring that they “perpetuate sexist bullying.”

Her distracting legs notwithstanding, Robredo’s open criticism of Duterte’s policy of encouraging extrajudicial killings to advance his anti-drug war crusade and her opposition to his decision to allow the Dictator Marcos to be buried in the hero’s cemetery proved too much for Duterte who ordered Robredo banned from attending cabinet meetings. This forced Robredo to resign from her cabinet post.

Screengrab of webpage with links to articles on Robredo's rumored pregnancy

Soon after Robredo’s resignation, Duterte’s army of trolls began a “demolition” campaign against the Vice-President falsely accusing her of being pregnant from an alleged affair with a married congressman.

Duterte even brought up the rumor in a speech in Tacloban City on November 22 when he openly speculated as to who the Vice-President’s congressman lover may be.

Robredo denied the news being spread in the Duterte websites that she was pregnant (at 52!) or that she had a congressman-lover. Robredo said if true, it would be “funny but at the same time, it is an insult to all of us women.”

The line of attack against Robredo initiated by the Duterte Army of Trolls is what has been called by Leora Tanenbaum as “slut-shaming” - “the experience of being labeled a sexually out-of-control girl or woman (a “slut” or “ho”) and then being punished socially for possessing this identity. Slut-shaming is sexist because only girls and women are called to task for their sexuality, whether real or imagined; boys and men are congratulated for the exact same behavior. This is the essence of the sexual double standard: Boys will be boys, and girls will be sluts.”

 This tact of “slut-shaming” was most viciously employed against opposition Senator Leila DeLima who was attacked by Duterte and his army of trolls for her admitted affair with her driver, Ronnie Dayan. It was not enough to allege that they had sex, but the intimate details of their sex had to be bared in vulgar detail to the public in televised hearings conducted by Duterte’s congressional allies. As if that was not outrageous enough, they went even further.

Screengrab of webpage with links to articles on DeLima's sex life

The Duterte trolls scoured the porn universe to find a video of a woman who looked like Sen. DeLima and then after they found one, presented it as “prima facie evidence” of DeLima and Dayan having sex. Google “DeLima sextape” and you will see dozens and dozens of video docs showing a portly Asian woman with glasses having porn sex with an African-American man. One such porn video on YouTube produced by “Rodrigo Duterte Latest News” drew 1,336,300 hits.

The porn video was supposed to be presented at a congressional hearing but the proposal was pulled after House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II retracted their allegation that it was DeLima on the video.

Even as various media confirmed that it was not DeLima on the sex tape, Duterte continued to insist that it was DeLima he watched again and again. “She was not only screwing her driver, she was screwing the nation…Every time I watch the video, I lose my appetite. Only people who will fall for her are … I am not a guard or a motorcycle cop or convict,” he said.

In response to Duterte’s false allegations, Sen. DeLima assailed Duterte’s “misogyny” declaring that no woman should be punished for embracing her sexuality.

“Not because only women have or experience it – if all the phallic jokes and fascination with the sexual act and footage thereof is any indication – but because… well, apparently because we are women and, apparently, we have no right to own and enjoy our sexuality,” De Lima said.

“Men can boast about all the women they’ve bedded and conquered. But it’s a mortal sin if a woman even dares to embrace her sexuality.”

“This is not about having a sense of humor but having sensitivity towards real issues affecting women. By allowing ourselves to be bullied into silence, we are unconsciously being groomed to laugh at abuse, and in so laughing become abusers ourselves,” De Lima said.

Trump and Duterte may be brothers in the same macho fraternity of predators in chief but Trump did succeed in unifying millions of women in the U.S. to go out into the streets to protest his misogyny. For some reason, the women of the Philippines could not muster the same energy to mount a women’s march against Duterte.

One week after the Women’ March that didn’t happen in Manila, the Miss Universe contestants proudly marched down the ramp of the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila for their swimsuit and evening gown competition while Pres. Duterte grinned and enjoyed the spectacle broadcast to the world on Fox. 

Outside the pageant, Emmi De Jesus, of the Gabriela party-list group, told the press: "Despite the pomp and supposed celebration of women power surrounding the 65th Miss Universe pageant, women here and abroad remain in their unglamorous and exploited state. In the Philippines, 22 women and children are raped every day. Women workers remain concentrated in low-paying, contractual jobs. And mothers face rising budget pressure amid looming price hikes in basic commodities, power and water."

Perhaps the Gabriela message will be enough to prod Manila and other cities in the Philippines to “break the religion-based rules” and join the next Women’s March, just like they did in 81 other countries of the world on January 21.

"Once it happens in a generation that a spirit of resistance is awakened," said Rabbi Sharon Brous at the Women’s March on Washington DC rally. "This is one of those moments. Our children will one day ask us ‘where were you when our country was thrust into a lion’s den of demagoguery and division,'" she said. Published 2/8/2017

(Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).

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