Presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte has recently drawn flak online for joking comments he made about rape. Pertaining to rape and death of Australian missionary Jacquelline Hamillton in a 1989 prison riot in Davao, Duterte said: “Pero napakaganda.. Dapat, ang mayor muna ang mauna.”
Many have taken to social media to express disappointment and disapproval of the Davao Mayor’s comments. UP Law student Paolo Tamase had this to say: “Duterte promises that three to six months after he is elected, we can walk the streets secure, free from crime. Maybe that can be true for men. But with a president who does not seem to think of rape as a heinous crime—one trivial enough to make jokes about—can it ever be true for the women in our lives?”
[Warning: Graphic Content]
I’ve been one of the unlucky guys to have handled a rape case as an intern. The victim was a girl in her twenties who was raped one early morning after drinking with a neighbor, a childhood friend whom she considered to be her kuya.
We were counsel for the victim. Despite the assiduous prosecution of a succession of eight law interns and the circumstances which clearly pointed to rape—her last memory before she became unconscious consisted of the accused smashing her breasts and fondling (“sinasalat”) her vagina—the man was only convicted for acts of lasciviousness, a much lighter crime. Maybe it was because she could not say with certainty that the man inserted his penis in her vagina (although, under the current rape law, any object would have been enough).
Or, maybe, it was because we live in a country where the woman must not only prove the elements of rape, but must also overcome social prejudices: how could she have been raped when she was out drinking in the early morning, when she allowed herself to be left alone with a man, and when (as the accused attempted to prove) she formerly worked in a nightclub?
I have tried to make the case against Duterte: that we should be cautious about electing as president a “punisher” who promises to wipe out crime by criminal acts; a mayor who will institute federalism in a country of political dynasties, warlords, and private armies; and a guy who “says it like it is” in a world where words start wars. But I have done so privately because the violence on social media has that chilling effect, and I have good friends who support him wholeheartedly.
This news is the last straw. What bothers me now is not the candidate but the public sentiment that we can live with a president who makes fun of rape because “he obviously does not mean it,” or “you have to take the good with the bad.” Rape is not something humans can make jokes about, and there is no “context” where it can be read in the “proper light.” Rape is an animalistic act that tramples on the freedom of persons—most lopsidedly, of women—to their most intimate expression. Every time we make a “harmless” joke about it, we repackage something that remains rotten from within. And a person who does not understand this is not fit to be president; heck, he is not even fit to be a public officer.
I am not asking his supporters to publicly reverse their support for Duterte. While there is no shame in doing so, much time and emotion has been spent on supporting his campaign that it can hurt one’s pride to suddenly jump ship.
Pero pare, ikaw lang ang makakakita ng boto mo. Right before you shade the circle beside his name on May 9, think of your girlfriend, wife, child, mother, or sister: How will the next six (or more) years be like for them in a country led by a person who embodies the social prejudices against them; who does not understand their worth?
Duterte promises that three to six months after he is elected, we can walk the streets secure, free from crime. Maybe that can be true for men. But with a president who does not seem to think of rape as a heinous crime—one trivial enough to make jokes about—can it ever be true for the women in our lives?
P.S. Mom, Pat, Cai, and family and friends, I am so sorry for keeping silent.
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