Duterte, aides scrambling to fend of #BabaeAko campaign

Filipino women have been pushing back at Rodrigo Duterte since the first time he burnished his macho credentials with a rape joke during the campaign for the 2016 presidential elections. Women have paid a high price for calling out Duterte’s misogyny.

The women’s group Gabriela was lynched by Duterte fanatics, its social media hotline paralyzed from the deluge of curses and threats.

Duterte’s own daughter, Sara, who is now the mayor of their home city of Davao, waded into the controversy.

She stressed continued support for her father, but agreed that rape should not be a subject of jokes. Then the young Duterte took the big step of acknowledging her experience with rape.

You would think Sara’s bombshell would make Duterte rethink a “joke” that, beyond being tasteless, was emblematic of a warped sense of power: Scolding a rapist for not granting the mayor the privilege of going first.

Didn’t happen. Duterte, with a sneer, dismissed his daughter as “a drama queen.”


Two years into his presidency, Filipino women are finally standing up against what the Philippine Daily Inquirer calls Duterte’s “serial sexism.”

After weeks of verbal abuse aimed at ousted Chief Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno and outgoing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Duterte expressed relief by vowing not to appoint women into these positions.

In one fell swoop, Duterte tore down the hard-won reputation of the Philippines as an Asian country that has made great strides in breaking the glass ceiling.

Aside from a growing number of women politicians on all levels, a 2018 survey of women in business shows that the number of women holding senior management posts — 46.58%, up from 40% in 2017 — is almost twice the 24.14% global average.

Two in five wage and salary workers are women, and a third are college graduates, compared to less than 15% for men, according to a government 2013 study.

The unceasing attacks on women, whether directly by Duterte and his closest aides and allies, or their proxies on social media, have affected rights defenders, leaders of civil society groups, student leaders, activists and journalists.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Karen Dumpit linked that hostile landscape to the Philippines going down three ranks in the Global Gender Gap Index.

“It is the environment of misogyny that we have been hearing. Language matters, it is also basically what we see now in terms of women being maligned in public,” Dumpit said in a CHR-hosted event for women’s groups.


The launch of #BabaeAko came a day after an informal meeting of women activists from different groups. Many of the participants were supporters of Sereno, target of a three-branch ouster project, who was taking on Duterte directly for his misogyny.

They were joined by more militant activists, including Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago and former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who famously took down the Sen. Vicente Sotto III in a confirmation hearing (he was reduced to an apology for belittling single parents).

Artists sent contributions as did affluent women “heart warriors” and feminists.

Workers, campaigners, entrepreneurs, and a big group of nurses abroad, made the hashtag trend on social media.

Young women were especially angered by the President’s order to have shoulders shoot women leaders in their vaginas.

News organizations noticed the noise. The President’s aides started scrambling.

The results were pathetic.


The President “has always been a firm believer and protector of women’s rights,” said his top aide, Bong Go.

“He has pushed for local laws and created programs that uphold women’s rights while he was still mayor of Davao City including the landmark Women Development Code and the creation of the Integrated Gender Development Division of Davao City,” Go said in a statement. “Because of these advocacies, Davao City has been recognized as a Gender and Development Local Learning Hub in the Philippines.”

Trotting out the “out of context” card, Go called the charge of misogyny unfair and “clearly political.”

It’s was a poor effort at deflection that elicited jeers on social media.

How can a campaign against misogyny not be political?

Women (and their men allies) won the right to vote, to workplace reforms, to rights as single parents, the RH law, the law violence against women and children, stronger anti-trafficking rules and harsher penalties by engaging with political leaders, by campaigning.

Go also betrayed the feudal worldview of the Duterte inner circle.

It’s not like Davao ordinances were gifts from Duterte. They were fruits of struggle by women’s groups that he backed.

His actions violate those same reforms, including Davao’s stringent rules on verbal abuse and other forms of sexism.

Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, outdid Go in the art of illogic and the inadvertent display of the depths of the Duterte “macho-fascism” as feminists call it.

“[The] President’s recent remarks on women are a mere play of words,” he said.

He excused Duterte’s outbursts as a reflection of “growing frustration over continuous and non-stop tirades against his administration by Chief Justice and the Ombudsman.”

In short, a frustrated man is entitled to abuse women, according to the gospel of Duterte.

Roque and Go’s line of reasoning is similar to what I’ve heard over the years covering cases of violence against women.

The abuser will ALWAYS profess love and then claim he was provoked into acts of abuse (again and again and again).

There is little room for a sane defense of Duterte’s exceptional hatred of women.

So Roque added to the insanity.

Mahal na mahal ni Duterte ang babae {Duterte loves women very much]. His problem is he loves them too much,” he told Rappler.

The more the aides speak up, scrambling for defense, the more they betray the pathology of Duterte.


Just as the lower classes have hardened their stance towards a President that promised them relief from poverty but has given them the opposite, women—including those who swooned over the dude from Davao during the election campaign—are turning their backs on him.

It will take little more for the women to step out and march against Duterte.

What Roque and his ilk have forgotten is a Pulse Asia December 2016 survey that shows “virtually every Filipino (94%) is of the view that it is only right for a woman to fight for her rights.”

“This opinion is expressed by practically all Filipinos across geographic areas (91% to 97%), socio-economic classes (92% to 95%), and levels of educational attainment (92% to 96%), as well as among both males and females (93% to 95%),” according to the survey firm.

Duterte’s shock and awe tactics are failing. There’s nothing a bully fears more than the perceived victim getting up and swinging back.



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