If we are to believe members of the Opposition, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is anti-women and is targeting women in government and media who are critical of him. To demonstrate this, they created a list of women he is supposedly harassing and bullying into silence. The list includes Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, current Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Leila De Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Rappler’s Maria Ressa and reporter Pia Ranada.
The problem with the accusation against Duterte is that the accusers ignore the men Duterte swore at and lampooned even before and after he became President. This includes former United States President Barrack Obama, Senator Antonio Trillanes, former Department of Interior and Local Government and losing Presidential candidate Mar Roxas. Duterte has also terminated some of his cabinet secretaries who are men for incompetence and had publicly named mayors and members of the military who are involved in the drug trade. That is proof he doesn’t just target women.
Another problem with Duterte’s accusers is they are highlighting the gender of the subjects and inadvertently making it appear that women should be treated differently to men. This goes against the very essence of gender equality. It seems what they are trying to say is, since they are women, it’s impossible for Sereno, De Lima, Robredo, Ressa and all the other women in trouble with the law to have committed their offences. That’s the kind of gender equality they are asking for – treat women as infallible.
I imagined gender equality as not highlighting the gender of the individual and focusing more on that person’s actions and speeches. To highlight they are women is akin to saying they are weak, fragile and should be handled with “care”. This is the impression they give since they don’t highlight the gender of the opposite sex who have become the subject of Duterte’s tirades.
The Opposition are also glossing over the crimes and offences that said women have committed. Senator De Lima is currently detained at Camp Crame for her role in allegedly allowing the illegal drug trade to proliferate inside the national penitentiary during her time as Department of Justice Secretary. She was also rubbing elbows with convicted drug lords. De Lima proved that even a woman can commit such a crime. Malacanang Spokesman Harry Roque even called her “mother of all drug lords”. She’s no frail woman, in short. Her loud mouth is testament to this. She hasn’t stopped yakking against Duterte even though she is already in custody. That’s proof that Duterte government doesn’t stifle dissent.
Current Vice President Robredo’s legal problems have nothing to do with Duterte. She is battling an electoral protest filed by former senator Bongbong Marcos for allegedly benefiting from electoral fraud committed with the help of SMARTMATIC in the 2016 Vice Presidential election. While she was removed from Duterte’s cabinet as Housing Secretary, it was because she was not delivering results as expected and she did not fit the culture in Duterte’s team. Duterte would have removed Robredo if she were a man anyway. Her being a member of the Opposition party did not help her cause and so has her accusing the Duterte government of carrying out “extra-judicial killings” before the international community without backing her claims with sound evidence. In other words, her removal had nothing to do with her gender, but on circumstances more compelling than her gender.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s problems have nothing to do with her being a woman either particularly since she is supposedly of a different sexual orientation. Her legal woes have more to do with her shortfalls as the head of the news organisation. She failed to ensure her company complied with the operational requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission. As the head of a news organisation, she continues to fail to ensure that her writers publish articles that are truthful and not libelous. This is evident in the libel case filed against her, her reporter and the rest of the online news site’s directors. The complainant – businessman Wilfredo Keng was accused by Rappler’s former reporter as the one who lent his sports utility vehicle to the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in an article “CJ using SUVs of ‘controversial’ businessmen” published in May 29, 2012. Indeed, Ressa’s case has nothing to do with her gender and is not meant to stifle her freedom of speech. She can still continue to disagree though – proof that she still enjoys the freedom to dissent.
Rappler reporter Pia Ranada’s problems may not be with the law, but her association with Rappler has landed her on Duterte’s bad side. While she still has freedom to publish her articles, she is not allowed to cover Duterte because the President believes that her employer has violated the law on foreign ownership and therefore, considers Ranada a foreign correspondent. Again, Ranada’s gender has nothing to do with her being banned from covering Duterte. He would have done the same thing if Ranada were male.
Duterte’s beef with Ombudsman Morales has less to do with her being a woman and a critic, but more to do with her office allegedly allowing illegally-obtained documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) regarding his and his family’s bank accounts to be given to Duterte’s detractors. She may have done the same thing with Corona during his impeachment trial and gotten away with it, but this time, Duterte expressed outrage over the violation on bank secrecy law. Morales exhibited selective justice and is biased against those not allied with the Liberal Party.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno is a woman facing many legal woes, indeed. She is a disgrace to the women of the world for using the Woman Card to get away with her violations. She’s not in trouble because she is critical of Duterte. She is in trouble because she didn’t file her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) for more than a decade particularly when she was still a law professor at the University of the Philippines. She is also facing a tax evasion case for allegedly failing to pay at least P2 million worth of taxes stemming from her income as government counsel in the case against the NAIA Terminal 3 builder Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco). These are only some of the cases among others she is facing in her coming impeachment trial.
Sereno seems to be going on a media blitz while on her forced indefinite leave. Her captive audiences include students who don’t have a choice but to sit through a speech mainly about how great she is and how other people are bullying her. She’s teaching the younger generation kids how to play the Victim Card. She was recently called out by her colleague justice Teresita de Castro for discussing her predicament during a speech at a forum hosted by the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) where they were both in attendance.
De Castro had the right to highlight Sereno’s audacity in speaking about something that is still pending. As a lawyer, she should have been aware of sub judice rule, which means under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion. Sereno was just a guest speaker in the event, but she chose to include politics in her speech and put herself up as champion for women’s causes. The guests became captive audience to her drama. Sereno was seeking public sympathy for the predicament she is in. It was the wrong place to do it.
Sereno is emulating former President Noynoy Aquino — taking every opportunity she gets to champion her cause and paint herself under a good light at the expense of others. There is no stopping the Sereno Media Circus. She’s also doing interviews with members of foreign media who are ignorant of the whole picture and are quick to believe narratives that agree with their view of the Duterte government. De Castro is correct. Sereno should not have mentioned her pending case in a gathering not in her honour. Sereno is too full of herself. Her psychiatric test result is evident in her speaking engagements discussing herself. Most of her peers in the Supreme Court want her out. Her supporters can’t simply say it is Duterte’s doing.
The Opposition’s claim that Duterte is targeting women is nonsense. The list of women mentioned who are now in trouble with the law could have sex change now, and they would still be in trouble with the law. The lesson here is that one just has to be sure one hasn’t violated the law when calling attention to one’s self. That applies to both men and women.
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