Philippine Daily Inquirer

‘Mauna ka na, Mayor’

- Rina Jimenez-David

THIS AFTERNOON, during the last of the presidenti­al debates sponsored by the Commission on Elections and media companies, there’s a very big chance, according to wiseacres, that when the time comes for the candidates to speak, all the others will give way to Rodrigo Duterte, saying: “Mauna ka na (You go first), Mayor.”

This is a dig, of course, at the Davao City mayor who has come under fire for his confession that, upon seeing the remains of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, he felt anger, not because she had been gang-raped, but because she was so beautiful and he, as the mayor, should have had a go at her first.

Filipinos somehow have the knack for salvaging some humor from the most dismaying, disgusting and dehumanizi­ng of situations. The terrible fate of Hamill is apparently no exception.

In social media, “Do-dirty” supporters have pounced upon critics of the mayor, accusing them of being paid hacks of his opponents, lacking a sense of humor, looking down on people of humble origins, and sour in outlook and prissy in their defense of women.

Oh, yeah? What is it that women are so angry about? As a statement of the group that goes by the hashtag #RapeIsNotA­Joke declare: When public officials, like Duterte, crack jokes at the expense of rape victims, they “send the signal that it is okay to rape women.”

“This is an issue that transcends politics,” the statement declares. “This is an issue that strikes at the very core of our dignity. OnMay 9, let us cast our votes for a president who respects us, our place in society, and our dignity. We deserve nothing less.”

*** A LONGER statement by the same group points out that “words are not harmless,” adding that “they come from somewhere and lead somewhere.” This should dispel claims made that the mayor’s “joke” was just a slip of the tongue, a momentary lapse, and that women should just get over our anger and move on.

But words that come out of the mouth of someone, especially a public official, says the group, “are words embedded in his heart, mind and conscience. Unbidden, they signal the ingrained attitudes and world view of the person mouthing them. And once said, they form the outlines of the overall philosophy and approach to governance of the man-who-wants-to-be-President.” Indeed, as they warn: “Women have reason to be afraid, very afraid.”

The awful truth is that the mayor’s utterances did not come out in isolation, or just from the core of his being. The laughter and catcalls, the jeers and delight with which his followers—men and women—received his incendiary remarks tell us that Do-dirty merely reflects a culture where women (and children) are routinely demeaned and debased.

“It’s as if the string of landmark gender laws women won (at great effort) never happened,” said the group. And these laws—ranging from the Anti-Sexual Harassment law, to the progressiv­e Anti-Rape Law, from the anti-VAWC to the Magna Carta of women—sought “to redefine male-female relations away from male power and privilege to one of mutuality and equality of women.”

What will happen to these laws, with what kind of zeal will government functionar­ies implement them, under the presidency of a man who makes jokes about rape, sexual harassment and summary executions? Don’t say we weren’t warned.

*** ADDING their voices to the continuing outcry against Mayor Duterte’s misogynist attitudes, as reflected in his public “jokes,” declaratio­ns and behavior, are the members of The Outstandin­g Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS), which includes former senator Leticia Ramos Shahani (author of the Progressiv­e Anti-Rape Law), Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Sen. Loren Legarda, actress Nora Aunor, and its president, civic leader Elsa Payumo.

In its statement, the TOWNS women said they “strongly condemn” the mayor’s remarks about Hamill, which, they said, “served to trivialize the heinousnes­s of the crime, instead of arousing anger and repulsion.” By cracking a joke at the expense of Hamill—and her family and countryfol­k in Australia—Duterte, said the organizati­on of awarded women, “manifests the mayor’s chauvinist­ic and unhealthy attitude towards women, which he has shown time and again with wanton disregard for civility in his campaign sorties.”

*** ASKING for your support is the OFW Family Club (OFWFC) Party List, #47 on the ballot. Running for reelection, the OFW Family Club was founded by the late ambassador Roy V. Señeres and has been giving assistance to overseas workers for over 15 years. The OFWFC won a seat in the House in 2013, the first time overseas workers were given a voice in the legislatur­e, and thus a role and presence in the creation of laws and policies for the “new heroes” of the country.

The first nominee of OFWFC party-list is Roy Señeres Jr., the president of the OFW Family Club.

Through the years, though, the OFW Family Club has broadened its advocacy and efforts beyond the welfare of overseas workers and their families. The late ambassador also sought for security of tenure and benefits for local workers through the Rose (Respect our Security of Employment) Movement, with the call: “No to Contractua­lization.” It has long been a complaint of workers forced to keep to short-term, six-month terms of employment, and Señeres always said that if contractua­lization did not exist, fewer Filipinos would be forced to leave their families as OFWs since they would enjoy job security at home.

Voting for OFWFC Party List, #47 on the ballot, will finally put substance in our declaratio­ns that OFWs are, indeed, our new heroes.

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