JUST as his stellar presence on the world media stage seemed to have waned, President Rodrigo Duterte regained this week his top position after he delivered another of his choice obscene quips laced with violence against women.
Major newspapers and networks abroad picked up his announcement – spelling his name right to give credit where it is due — made on Wednesday that he had ordered soldiers not to kill female rebels but instead shoot them in the vagina to make them useless.
This shot from Duterte’s foul mouth reverberated around the world as newspapers and networks picked up the soundbites that offended the sensibilities of human rights, feminist and other cause-oriented groups.
The transcript from the Presidential Communications Operations Office censored the offensive term. Where Duterte used the Visayan word for vagina, the transcript had merely a dash.
While disclosing another violent and misogynist streak of his before a group of former rebels gathered at Malacañang, the Commander-in-Chief failed to explain his belief that women are useless if their genitals are not intact.
Duterte has on many occasions shown his view of rape as another instrument of violence or conflict. One time he said (jokingly, it was later explained) that as mayor he should have been first in line when a pretty missionary was gang-raped by convicts who had escaped from jail.
Another time, he told policemen, the core of his bloody anti-drug drive, in so many words that it was all right if in the course of operations they raped three women. Another joke?
Addressing foreign businessmen in his last trip to India, Duterte – his Freudian slip again showing — quipped that while Islamic jihadists had been promised 42 (72?) virgins as reward in the afterlife, he preferred to have the virgins on earth. He went on to hint that tourists and investors have virgins waiting for them in the Philippines.
Duterte’s obsession with sex, women and extramarital relations oozes out unbidden. In his speeches, he sometimes turns and asks his fellow officials and male VIPs on stage who among them do not have a “No. 2” or mistress.
As if to validate or rationalize an inclination of sexual activity of many top officials in the land, the Congress is in a hurry to pass, while Duterte is the president, a law that will make divorce or the annulment of marriage easier. The mistresses of some of the bill’s sponsors must be lobbying in the background.
His coterie on stage, and even the crowd — caught before a President asking for public endorsement of his obsession — usually applaud. Those who cannot stomach playing along just look down and wait for the awkward moment to pass.
(This is the same coercive tactic used in gatherings organized by Duterte loyalists. After the program, participants are grouped for a photo-op – and, without being given a chance to refuse, those present are asked to raise a Duterte fist-bump and are snapped in that embarrassing pose.)
Whatever it is that moves President Duterte to flaunt his deprecatory attitude toward women, he should keep it between him and his doctor until they find a cure for it.
Of course, as we have been saying in this corner, we are all sinners. But, with due respect, we think the Father of the Nation should be more circumspect. He should not presume that just because he does it, everybody else does.
• Speak up while you still can
NOT everybody is taking lightly the violent and misogynist trend of presidential thinking.
Aside from cause-oriented professional and women’s sectors, other groups such as Human Rights Watch have spoken up, some of them accusing Duterte of violating international humanitarian law.
Carlos Conde of HRW Asia Division said: “It encourages state forces to commit sexual violence during armed conflict which is a violation of international humanitarian law.”
The Commission on Human Rights also took time to remind the President that “words matter,” adding that his latest remark now “openly encourages violence against women.”
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said: “It is the duty of the government to ensure that women, as humans with rights and as part of the country’s most vulnerable and marginalized, enjoy the protection of the state and not be at the forefront of inflicting violence against them.”
The Geneva Conventions and its protocols, of which the Philippines is a signatory, include the prohibition of “violence to life and person” such as cruel treatment and torture and “outrages upon personal dignity.” Cruel treatment includes sexual violence.
While sexual violence happens in armed conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross believes it can be stopped. (Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross, may want to share his thoughts on this point.)
The convention also says: “All parties to an armed conflict must abide by the prohibition of sexual violence… All states have an obligation to prosecute the perpetrators.”
To be clearer about what President Duterte said in the Palace program with the rebel returnees, here are his quotes translated from Bisaya to English:
“They will say, ‘Okay, how many people are dead?’ ‘Three.’ ‘What?’ ‘Three.’ ‘Son of a bitch, don’t lose.’ ‘Are there any women holding guns’ ‘Sir, she’s a fighter, an amazon.’ ‘Shoot them in the vagina.’
“Tell the soldiers, ‘There’s a new order coming from Mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina so that… if there are no vagina, it would be useless.’”
Duterte still prefers to be called “Mayor” instead of President. He has confessed that he has not yet outgrown the mindset of the mayor of Davao City which he was for more than 20 years.