Fresh from getting slammed for his insensitive remarks about the 1989 rape and death of an Australian missionary, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is now reported to have ridiculed persons with disability (PWD) before an amused crowd in Aklan province.
Columnist Ellen Tordesillas in her article in another newspaper on Monday threw the book at Duterte, the mayor of Davao City, citing “a law that prohibits the ridicule, vilification, both verbal and non-verbal, against PWDs which can cause them to lose self-esteem.”
In her column in Malaya, Tordesillas narrated: “Regaling his audience in Kalibo, Duterte performed: ‘Iyong isa doon, classmate ko pa. Eh na-stroke, paganoon-ganoon [One of them was my classmate. He suffered a stroke, he moved like this]’ as he mimicked the half-paralyzed movement of a stroke victim.
“Showing no mercy, he added, ‘Pakamatay ka na lang [Just kill yourself],” she quoted Duterte as saying.
Tordesillas then defined public ridicule as “making fun, or contemptuous imitating or making mockery–in writing or in words, or in action’–of PWDs because of their impairment.”
She cited Republic Act (RA) 9422, which amended the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, as identifying two forms of vilifying PWDs: one, uttering slanderous and abusive statements against them; two, an activity in public which incites hatred toward serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of PWDs.
Tordesillas was referring to Duterte’s speech in Aklan, which has, according to the Davao City mayor, one of the most beautiful plazas in the country.
Upon the request of PWDs in the area, Duterte said he provided wheelchairs and designated attendants, two nurses and a doctor to take care of the elderly and the PWDs visiting the plaza.
Duterte in his speech told the crowd that when he himself visited the plaza, he saw among the PWDs present at the time a former classmate of his, who had become disabled as a result of a stroke, the column said.
It said that after imitating the stroke victim, Duterte even suggested in jest to the man to use a barber’s shaving razor to cut his throat, a spontaneous remark that drew laughter from the crowd, but which also offended other people, especially those who had stroke victims in their family.
One of the offended parties was Bib Macasaet, wife of Butch Macasaet, publisher of the tabloid Abante.
Bib’s father-in-law, Malaya publisher Jake Macasaet, is recovering from a stroke.
Bib and husband Butch have a special child, who has overcome his disability and is now helping other children with special needs.
“I take great offense at what Duterte said because I have a son with special needs and my father-in-law just suffered a stroke, November 2015, and is a wheelchair user,” Bib was quoted in the column as saying.
“You are a mentally ill person, Duterte,” Bib added. “How dare you laugh and make fun of stroke patients who are immobile and helpless? My father-in-law is a stroke patient and I will not allow you, to say ‘Pakamatay ka na lang’ because he can’t help himself. Who do you think you are to make a mockery of disabled people?”
Bib also took on the people who laughed at Duterte’s tasteless joke: “I take it that none of you have relatives with disabilities or stroke patients– or else you wouldn’t be laughing,” she was quoted by Tordesillas as saying.
The column said Bib asked Filipinos to wake up and stand up to Duterte: “Philippines, we just can’t allow this person to go on degrading people, most especially the helpless ones.”
People who violate RA 9422 will be fined, for the first violation, not less than P50,000 but not exceeding P100,000 or imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than two years, or both at the discretion of the court.
For any subsequent violation, the law calls for a fine of not less than P100,000 but not exceeding P200,000, or imprisonment for not less than two years but not more than six years, or both at the discretion of the court.