THIS is unpleasant to write, because I will be commenting on two topics that point me in conflicting directions. These are the latest contretemps in our public life, so awkward that it seems offensive to give them space in print.
Topic A is the newly emergent defense of those accountable for the Dengvaxia scam: their audacious claim that since no deaths in the vaccination program have been proved to be due to Dengvaxia, there may be no crime or irregularity at all.
Topic B concerns President Duterte’s misogyny (hatred of women), which was manifest when he told an audience of soldiers to shoot women militants or rebels in the vagina to render them useless. We may have thought that Harvey Weinstein is the last word on offensive sexual behavior; but our President is contesting him for a place of infamy with his own behavior towards women.
These public declarations demand comment and analysis.
Cocktail of offenses
The Senate investigation of the Dengvaxia scam marches on, and watchdog groups have piled multiple complaints against alleged culprits in the scandal.
I use the word “scam” to describe Dengvaxia (others have used “scandal”, “debacle” and “mess”) because it best connotes the cocktail of offenses in this anomaly:
1. A conspiracy to make a huge amount of money illegally;
2. The victimization of children by a drug manufacturer and government departments;
3. The irregular appropriation of public money to fund the illegal purchase of Dengvaxia;
4. A systematic effort to cover up the crime and conceal public documents.
By now, the extent of wrongdoing on Dengvaxia should be manifest to the public, because of the continued public hearings conducted by the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Representatives of the Dengvaxia manufacturer, Sanofi-Pasteur, have been called by the committee to testify on the transaction and on their product.
Experts have testified that the World Health Organization (WHO) has not approved Dengvaxia as an immunization vaccine, and that the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Dengvaxia for use in the country.
Government health officials have been called to answer for their accountability in the vaccination program that went horribly wrong.
No less than President Benigno Aquino 3rd has testified to his knowledge and involvement in the Dengvaxia deal.
Painting scare as the villain
Just when many of us thought that Dengvaxia was an open-and-shut case, the likely defendants and culprits have mounted their defense strategy, which goes as follow:
1. They have branded the entire Dengvaxia controversy as just a scare and hysteria over the immunization program.
2. They have demanded a halt to the autopsies conducted on children who succumbed after vaccination with Dengvaxia.
3. They have gotten the Philippine Society of Pathologists (PSP), to come forward and declare that there is no medical evidence to show that the vaccine caused the death of the 14 children.
The PSP claims that the Dengvaxia scare has so jeopardized the national immunization program, that it threatens to trigger epidemics in the country. It called for prudence in the dissemination of information about Dengvaxia, instead of a ban on Dengvaxia.
The squeeze is now on to turn the public scare over Dengvaxia into the villain of the tragedy.
The PSP in effect is challenging the work of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), as though its members are the only ones qualified to determine the cause of death of the 14 vaccinated children.
Duterte’s lunatic misogyny
Philippine and international media have reported that on Wednesday President Duterte announced that he had ordered soldiers not to kill female rebels but instead shoot them in the vagina to make them useless.
The statement predictably reverberated around the world and added to DU30’s notoriety, as the sound bites and wire stories offended sensibilities in every corner of the planet.
The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) diligently edited the transcript and censored the offensive words.
Duterte made the statement before a group of former rebels gathered in Malacañang. Mercifully, he did not go into detail on why he believes women would be useless if their genitals are not intact.
I thought I had seen the worst sexual scandal with the unmasking of producer Harvey Weinstein’s offensive behavior towards women. The scandal has spread to other fields; other celebrities have been exposed and have lost their jobs.
Here at home, it appears that we may have to scramble for another word to identify a brewing scandal.
The offender is none other than our chief executive and commander in chief. And the word that may come closest to describing his behavior is misogyny.
Besides his recent statement, Duterte has on many occasions shown a benign regard for rape. He joked at one time that as Davao City mayor he should have been the first to rape an Australian missionary raped by escaped convicts. He told policemen that it was all right that in the course of operations they raped three women. In his recent visit to India, he quipped that while Islamic jihadists had been promised 42 virgins as their reward in the afterlife, he preferred to have the virgins on earth. He went on to hint that tourists and investors in the Philippines would have virgins waiting for them.
The offensive statements are endless; they just get more offensive as he ages. Duterte is indubitably obsessed with sex, women and illicit relations.
His contemptuous attitude towards women becomes more comprehensible when viewed against the concept of misogyny.
I have taken what follows from the article on misogyny in Wikipedia.
“Misogyny,” says Wikipedia, “is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, erotomania, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.”
According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, “misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female.” Johnson argues that: ‘Misogyny …. is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence.”
In classical literature, there is plenty of writing and practice of misogyny.
Aristotle has been accused of being a misogynist because he has written that women are inferior to men. According to Cynthia Freeland (1994): “Aristotle says that the courage of a man lies in commanding, a woman’s lies in obeying.”
In the Routledge philosophy guidebook to Plato and the Republic, Nickolas Pappas describes the “problem of misogyny” and states:
“In the Apology, Socrates calls those who plead for their lives in court “no better than women” … The Timaeus warns men that if they live immorally they will be reincarnated as women.
Talking himself out of a job
I do not have the space here to delve at length into the subject of misogyny.
I will only say that the president‘s recent statement is lunatic. He has no restraints and reason in his speech once he launches into a tirade.
Were he to explain his comments on shooting women in the genitals, he will surely make it worse.
If you analyze his talk seriously, it sounds as though he is trying to talk himself out of a job. He seems totally unaware and doesn’t care that half of the country is female.
His mouth must have its way. This is who he is.