WOMEN’S Month is just around the corner. It is heartbreaking, however, to hear our country’s leaders making public statements that degrade and insult women.
Many countries across the world observe March as International Women’s Month and March 8 as International Women’s Day in recognition of the achievements of women as partners in nation-building.
When you hear the president of your country ordering soldiers to shoot female communist rebels in the vagina, can you simply dismiss it as a joke? And yet his spokesman wants you to take him seriously.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been labeled as “misogynist” and “macho-fascist” by human rights and women’s rights advocates because of his humiliating remarks about women, tending to reduce their worth as mere sex objects.
In a speech before more than 200 former communist soldiers in Malacañang last week, Duterte ordered soldiers to shoot female communist rebels in the vagina because, he said, women are “useless” without their vaginas.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is sometimes called Panty, refuses to be outdone. He has openly humiliated his wife while parading his paramour as his “new wife.”
When you have insensitive macho-pretenders like them for leaders, how can you expect respect from other people?
Leaders should empower people—be they men, women, gay or lesbian, children, adolescents, or adults, rebels or fanatics. You don’t empower anybody by uttering derogatory and demeaning remarks.
The way Duterte and Alvarez are devaluing women is insulting. They’re not at all funny, as Duterte spokesman Harry Roque, a lawyer who has seemingly thrown away his human rights advocacy to the gutter, wants the public to consider.
It is unfortunate that both Duterte and Alvarez are from Davao. I hope they don’t represent other Davaoeño males. Other womanizing men I know treat women well, but these two are a different species. Perhaps power has gone to their heads. They live up to the adage, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Up to what extent can we take their defenders’ excuse that those insulting words toward women were jokes that they find funny? Can’t they deliver powerful messages by not “joking” about women as sex commodities?
Remember during the 2016 election campaign when candidate Duterte spoke about the 1989 prison riot in which an Australian missionary was killed, and inmates had lined up to rape her. He said he wished he had the opportunity to rape her first. Despite that, he won and some women still swoon over him.
One year after winning in May last year, he told soldiers in Mindanao that while martial law was in force, he would protect them from prosecution if they raped three women.
President Duterte is squandering his political capital with his degrading remarks about women. His anger over the abuse of Filipino women in Kuwait would have sounded more sincere and meaningful if he has not been devaluing their worth right in their own country.
A few weeks ago, the body of 29-year-old Filipino overseas worker Joanna Demafelis was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait. She supposedly committed suicide but the family said her corpse bore signs of abuse and that her organs had been harvested. She left the country four years ago to work as a maid and her body was repatriated last Friday in a coffin.
Showing his anger over the abuse, Duterte said he would “sell his soul to the devil” to bring home workers who were being abused in Kuwait. He then ordered a stop to deployment of workers to Kuwait.
Duterte’s anger is well-placed. But would have sent a stronger message if he had shown respect to Filipino women in the same way that he seems to expect other nationalities to do. As the golden rule says, “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.”