Women Disempowerment in the Time of Duterte

A piece by columnist, doctor and medical anthropologist Gideon Lasco reads as follows: “Someday, a generation more civilized than us will wonder why we elected — and tolerated — a President with such a foul mouth.”

The irreversible march of History demands it. Let the future generations judge us so they may learn from our mistakes. But let them not judge us that we said nothing, did nothing against this reign of sexist and toxic madness.

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In just a span of a few years and weeks, our distastefully colorful President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has once again put himself in the limelight for his comments regarding women. Let us review:

  • On the question of the next Ombudsman: “I want someone whose integrity people believe in. Of course, it could not be a politician, especially not a woman.”
  • On women, in general: “Itong mga babae, mga prim and proper man yan, isang tingin lang sa nanay, tunaw na ‘yan. Tapos gawin mong pulis?I believe in woman, the competence, capability. Pero hindi lahat sa buhay dapat. Hindi. Dapat lang, it’s not appropriate. You cannot stand threats and intimidation. Also: “Some jobs are inappropriate for women.” And another: ““[Women are] unlike men, kami suntukan, bakbakan, barilan. We grew up in a sort of mindset na sometimes prone to violence.”
  • On women rebel fighters: “Shoot them in the vagina.”
  • On encouraging rape culture among soldiers: “There was this Australian lay minister … when they took them out … I saw her face and I thought: ‘Son of a bitch. what a pity … they raped her, they all lined up. I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first.”
  • And then there’s the indecent teasing, cursing, and verbal threats to women leaders like Vice President Leny Robredo, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, IMF Director Christine Lagarde, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

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Shame on the likes of Harry Roque and Bong Go for spinning these abuses as mere “Bisaya culture” and “play of words”. How stupid do you take the Filipinos for. They cite legislation and political appointments by Duterte as signs of his commitment to the cause of women. Tokenism! Simply creating laws, putting up advocacies, and appointing women in positions of governance do not mean that he is free of the backward, misogynistic, and sexist attitudes about the female.

Duterte’s person perpetuates the view that women should be domesticated and that the female body is a property meant only for recreation and procreation. He continues to see and hold the female body as an object of unbridled male lust, he proudly displays his reactionary machismo, and enforces the culture of toxic masculinity—the “Putang Ina Culture” of the Duterte Regime which cannot stand and tolerate Women of Character and Authority.

To the women who say they don’t mind the President’s sexist remarks, I hope you start minding them for the sake of your mothers, daughters, and granddaughters to come. Supposedly “liberated” and former Sex-Ed guru, PCOO Asec. Mocha Uson cannot even stand-up for her fellow women. Politics should not be used as an excuse to conveniently deny the rights and dignity of other people. If these people continue to do this, then they are no different from Hitler and the Nazis.

Duterte’s blatantly sexist, disrespectful, and misogynistic attitudes on women have always been beyond the sphere of the personal. No, it’s not about whether you mind it or not, it’s not about your open-mindedness or narrow-mindedness to his foul jokes. No! It’s about the common sense of humanity that we should extend to our fellow human beings that he disregards and denies to women.

As a citizen, as a human being, it is my task, our task, to call out President Duterte when his actions and words are clearly in the wrong. We cannot exempt the highest leader of the land from following the dignity and respect that should characterize human relations.

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As a national figure, Duterte wields almost unlimited attitude-conditioning mechanisms. His person sets the tone and form of his government; just look at the brazenness and disrespect of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Harry Roque to political opponents like Senator Leila de Lima and CJ Sereno as well as then-Senator Tito Sotto’s treatment of former DSWD Sec. Judy Taguiwalo.

The DDS call Duterte “Tatay”, Father. However, I cannot and will not judge his fatherhood to Inday Sara, Polong, Baste, and Kitty. But this does not mean I cannot be critical of the projections and the image he creates through his person as the President of the Philippines. Leaders, like fathers, serve as role models—both to our good and bad.

If Duterte chooses to rain down abuses, insults, and encourage physical, emotional, and sexual violence against women of all forms, then he is not a father. If his actions and words condition the attitudes of people and are used as excuses to treat women disrespectfully, inhumanely, then he is not a father. Any father, any man, any person, who does not respect the humanity of another is inhuman, an evil being whose existence must be resisted and ended. The #BabaeAko Movement is in the right for moving against Duterte’s attacks on women.

On the dawn that Duterte’s presidential lead was assured, he went to his parents’ tomb and wept, as all little children do before their beloved parents, as a scared little boy before his Mama: “Ma, tabangi ko.” Ma, please help me. Soledad Roa Duterte or Nanay Soleng, as Dabawenyos fondly call her, was a towering figure over the young Rodrigo. A woman of character and authority, she led the Yellow Friday protests in Davao City against the Marcoses and Martial Law. A part of the 2012 tribute speech for her, reads as follows:

“As the woman behind the family who, for decades, steered the political engine of local governance, Nanay Soleng was the soul and inspiration for good governance and public service. Nanay Soleng was the epitome of a complete woman: makadiyos for her dedication to God, makabayan for fighting a dictatorship and helping Filipinos regain freedom and democracy, makatao for her love of humankind, and makakalikasan for her defense of nature and environment.”

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It makes one smile in mischief, reading that her son has been doing anything but her examples. If push comes to a shove, would that Nanay Soleng turn and rise from the dead and admonish his boorish and foolish son!


Dom writes for pay by day and writes for passion by night. He is a Japan major at the University of the Philippines. He’s fond of ramen and anime but not of nice people.


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