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Groping is NOT a joke

We condemn, in the strongest sense, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s act of attempting to touch the sexual body part of a woman in his employ, as seen in a recent video taken from his birthday celebration.

We are likewise appalled by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement dismissing the action as “biro” between a kasambahay and her long-time boss.

Both the President and the Spokesperson--and everyone defending the action--ought to know that in this country, at least one woman or child is raped every 72 minutes (PNP, 2018). The reason is clear from the President’s action. This regime has consistently normalized and excused sexual abuse of women. By institutionalizing misogyny, it has encouraged a rape culture where every single woman is unsafe from harassment, discrimination and gender-based violence.

Groping--including attempt to grope--is a crime under the Safe Spaces Act, which the President himself signed. The law expressly says groping remains a crime “regardless of the motive.” His supposed “lack of malice” does not decriminalize nor excuse it. On the contrary, it only shows a state of utter moral depravity, a propensity for disrespecting women’s human rights and dignity.

Neither is it right to say that there was consent. The law only requires that the act of a sexual nature be unwanted or uninvited, which is clear from the filmed incident. The President and Spokesperson, both lawyers, should also recall that “consent” may be vitiated by circumstances, including grave abuse of authority.

Beyond this, the Safe Spaces Act imposes the duty on “employers or other persons of authority, influence or moral ascendancy in a workplace” to “prevent, deter, or punish the performance of acts of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace.” It is deplorable that the President failed in this duty, in his very own household, in the presence of his partner.

“A public servant must exhibit at all times the highest sense of professionalism, honesty and integrity for no less than the Constitution mandates that a public office is a public trust and public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. These principles should be taken as working standards by all in the public service. High standard of ethics and utmost responsibility in the public service must be promoted.” (Presidential Broadcast Staff-Radio TV Malacañang vs. Tabasa, GR No. 234624)

It is high time that the President conducts himself as a true public servant in accordance with these standards.

As partners of the government in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, we reiterate our call to end misogyny by the highest official of the land. We demand that women be treated with dignity and respect. We call on our institutions to implement the law and create safe spaces for women. We stand with--and for--all the victims of sexual abuse and harassment, especially those who are unable to speak, stand up to power, and defend themselves.

Signed: Dr. Rhodora M. Bucoy, Batch 3 Emmeline L Verzosa Melot Balisalisa, Batch 4 Jean Enriquez, Batch 4 Atty. Allen Liberato-Espino, Batch 4 Mel Reyes, Batch 4 Atty Mylen Gonzales Esquivel, Batch 1 Cecilia Iguiron Fantastico, Batch 4 Alvin Cloyd Dakis, Batch 4 Maria Helen Dayo, Batch 1 Rosena Sanchez, Batch 1 Marita Pimentel, Batch 1 Mary Barby Badayos-Jover, Batch 3 Daryl Leyesa, Batch 5 Vichel Viel Juguilon-Pangan, Batch 5 Ruby B Brion Batch 5 Mac Paul V. Alariao, Batch 7 Atty. Eric Paul Peralta, Batch 7 Philip Amiel B. Lopez, Batch 7 Juvilyn Salazar-Dormitorio Juvis L VS, Batch 4 Ma. Ellaine Kris Diomampo Kassandra Barnes, Batch 7 Maricar Rovira-Chan, Batch 5 Gichelle Cruz Lorena Territorio Yunque Jhamie Tetz I. Mateo Araceli Bayubay-Mercado Rosalyn Romo Echem Reina Olivar, Batch 3 Frederick Pablico, Batch 7 Jocelyn B. Balanag,Batch 3 Maria Aurora Tess Tabada, Batch 5 Paulina Lawsin-Nayra, Batch 3 Mary Ruth V. Parro, Batch 3 Lea Astrera, Batch 3 Maria Clara B. Ignacio, Batch 3 Lydia M. Baltazar, Batch 3 PSSUPT. Susan Trillanes Rabano-Jalla, Batch 4 Nimfa L. Bracamonte, Batch 5 Zenaida Q. Reyes, Batch 5 Ana Ebo, Batch 5 Arlene I. Pascual, Batch 5 Hamilcar Chanjueco Jr., Batch 5 Arche L. Ligo, IWS, St. Scholastica’s College

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