How gender oppression thrived under a pro-machismo admin

Duterte’s sexism and misogyny strengthens the pro-machismo culture that dominates our society.

It was during a roaring campaign rally on the eve of April 12, 2016. Then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte flocked alongside his thousands of followers weeks before the 2016 presidential elections. The man himself, fitted in his signature red polo, engaged with his supporters by telling accounts of his involvement in the 1989 Davao Hostage Crisis. But the words he uttered next were the ones truly unthinkable.  

Duterte shamelessly referenced one of the hostage’s victims, Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, saying, “Ang nagpasok sa isip ko, nirape nila, pinagpilahan nila doon. Nagalit ako kasi nirape, oo isa rin ‘yun. Pero napakaganda, dapat ang mayor muna ang mauna. Sayang.” 

(What came to mind was that they raped her and 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.) 

While his admirers found the quip humorous, many rightfully criticized his repulsive “joke” on social media. Shockingly, Duterte defended his statements, even risking his odds at the presidency after what ensued.

Today, Duterte’s sexist and misogynistic actions have become customary. From declaring that women aren’t fit to become president to admitting that he molested their family’s maid in his teens, the slue of sexist and misogynistic claims from Duterte seems to never end. 

Ilaw ng lipunan

“In the beginning of his term, it was really shocking,” recounts Nathalie Lourdes Verceles, University of the Philippines Center for Women’s and Gender Studies director. In the years that followed, however, she found Duterte’s behavior less dumbfounding as he became synonymous with scorning gender inclusivity. But, she clarifies, “It was around even before he went into the national picture.”

Centuries of Spanish rule influenced the country’s gender dynamics. As a result, remnants of these traditional gender roles are still found in current Filipino society. “There are people who don’t call him (Duterte) out because they completely agree with him,” she argues. “They believe that women are subordinate to men, that human rights are not important.” 

In the case of the administration, however, Verceles believes that Duterte’s discriminatory qualms are part of his populist, strongman brand. She pinpoints that his identity is contrary to core humanistic values: “kindness, compassion, even equality [and] respect”. For the organization director, these acts made it more strenuous to dismantle the sexist and misogynistic system. “We want gender equality, gender justice, [and] women empowerment; [but] then you have a president who [is like this],” she opines.   

Undoubtedly, his actions leave a foul taste in the mouths of many. For sari-sari store owner Marie Dinglasan, she has had enough of this travesty. “Nagkaroon tayo ng pangulo [na matindi] sa kabastusan at sa pagiging immoral, no?she expresses, “Dinaan [niya] lahat sa biro, pati buhay ng mamamayan dinaan lahat sa biro.” Fed up with all the jokes, she took to Facebook to post rant videos about the President and his supporters, gaining recognition and support from the masses. 

(Don’t we have an extremely rude and immoral president? He jokes his way through everything, even when it concerns the lives of the people.)

She often encounters people who perpetuate Duterte’s style of mockery. While others may laugh with him, Dinglasan remains unamused. It has gotten to a point where she has to remind everyone to treat women with respect because, “Ang kababaihan [ay] ang larawan ng ating bansa.” 

(Women are role models of our nation.)

Rainbows of black and white

Unfortunately, women aren’t the only victims of Duterte’s discriminatory practices—the LGBTQ+ community continues to be void of rights, respect, and security.

Joshua Valentin (III, AB-POM), an education and research officer from the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, argues, “Although many queer people are coming out…many still choose to stay in the closet out of fear promoted by the macho-feudal Duterte regime.” 

For one, the absence of a proper anti-discrimination law is already a strong indicator. Both Valentin and Vercles agree that the SOGIE Equality Bill was swept under the rug by the administration, despite Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque expressing the President’s support for the bill. But even so, Valentin notes, “Without any strongly enforced legislation to protect [LGBTQ+] rights, queer people will be vulnerable to homophobia by the general public [and] even law enforcers.” 

He further expounds that the red-tagging, illegal detaining, and killing of the community assert that “Duterte’s fascist regime is most especially felt by the LGBTQ+ community.” This was most evident in June of last year where 20 protesters—members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community—were arrested. Despite ceaseless efforts to halt akin condemnations, the administration has only established that there is no blanket of protection in place for the community.

Creeping from the bottom

Weeding off Duterte’s sexist and misogynistic remarks isn’t as simple as it sounds. Verceles notes that there are power struggles that society must also defeat. “It’s not just male dominance and female subordination, it’s also classism, heterosexism, cisexism, [and] many systems of oppression and inequality,” she laments. 

In response to such struggles, she believes that educating with “critical consciousness” and proper enforcing of laws could lead to a society that ensures the safety of women. Valentin feels the same way for the LGBTQ+, stating, “We should continue to advocate for national issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community and [realize] that our struggles with other marginalized people are interlinked.” 

However, true change must come intrinsically; Verceles believes that “it all starts with individuals, so we should also make changes to our personal lives.” She calls for the voluntary interrogation of personal beliefs, and the act of empathizing with others on a personal level. As for Dinglasan, she suggests that people should continuously fight for their rights to topple these oppressive systems. “Tayo ang may karapatan at tayo lang ang tanging makakapagluklok ng kandidatong ating ginugusto para sa ikagaganda ng ating bansa,” she declares. 

(We have rights and we are the only ones who could elect a good candidate for the betterment of our country.)

With the 2022 elections quickly approaching, Verceles hopes to have leaders who advocate for the rights and welfare of women and the LGBTQ+ community. As senatorial and presidential aspirants lock in their plans for their country, a lot of pressure is on the line to cater to all sectors. But she proposes a solution: to elect a leader who incorporates gender analysis, one who can “set the tone for the entire operation of all three branches of the government.”  

Dinglasan, on the other hand, reminds, “Mga anak…gamitin ninyo ang inyong utak, gamitin ninyo ang pagiging Pilipino niyo, [at] gamitin ninyo ang talino sa pagpili ng kandidato [para sa 2022 elections].” 

(Children, use your mind, use your being Filipino, and use your intelligence when choosing a candidate for the 2022 elections). 

After centuries of oppression and inequality, the people have had enough. 

Tama na; hanggang ngayon na lang,” Dinglasan ends.

(We’ve had enough; it ends now.)

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