In most modern 21st Century liberal democracies, victims of rape and harassment are encouraged to blow the whistle on their abusers. After all, abusers won’t be punished unless someone points the police and the justice system in the right direction to make resolution happen. Feminists, in particular, are supposedly in full solidarity with their females-in-arms. They are expected to get behind hapless women who blow the whistle on abusive spouses, bosses, and other big bad men who are in a position to make their lives miserable.
Unfortunately, it seems Filipino feminism had abandoned Mrs. Patricia “Tish” Bautista, wife of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Andres Bautista. Unlike Senator Leila De Lima who philandered with a married man, was an abject failure as head of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, and stands accused of abetting a vast drug trafficking network within the country’s largest penal facility, Mrs. Bautista does not get to find comfort in the warm bosom of her own society’s feminist movement (pardon the pun).
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The question is, how is Mrs. Bautista a different enough case to De Lima to warrant such a world of difference in the amount of support from Filipino feminists that she attracted (or failed to attract, as the case happens to be)?
The difference, it seems, lies in party loyalties. Mrs. Bautista’s husband, after all, is the COMELEC chairman who presided over the conduct of the 2016 national elections. This is a man who refused to investigate allegations of electoral fraud and bent the rules to prevent a mass disqualification of Liberal Party candidates for failure to comply with his own agency’s guidelines. As such, it seems, the Liberal Party owes him a lot.
This mutual utang na loob (debt of gratitude) now manifests itself in the way the usual self-appointed “watchdogs” of righteousness have relented from pouncing on what is, by any standard, a national scandal. Filipinos have long defined their lot as the inventors of “people power”. This “will of the people” is deeply-ingrained in the dogma and propaganda collateral (collectively referred to as the “Yellow Brand”) of the Liberal Party. As chief of the Philippines’ electoral governance body, Andres Bautista being accused of being in possession of “unexplained wealth” should have roused the “people power” squad to a protest frenzy. But that did not happen. Neither did Filipino feminists come to his wife’s rescue.
The thing with Filipino feminism is that its key “thought leaders” happen to be stalwarts of this clique of partisans within today’s Opposition. Take former commie-turned-reactionary Senator Risa Hontiveros who is routinely described as a “staunch feminist”. She refers to her party, Akbayan as a “feminist party” and claims that it…
[…] opposes the sexism and patriarchy of Philippine society whose insufferable expressions include the reduction of women to face-and-body sex objects and our demotion to half-humans, half-citizens in a society of institutions lorded over (literally) by men.
Quite a mouthful but essentially builds upon the old cliché that women are “victims” in a “man’s world”.
The trouble with being a partisan first and a “feminist” a distant second as Hontiveros evidently is, is that the principles of the second routinely trumped by the loyalties of the first results in an untenable inconsistency held prisoner by the grip of utang na loob. The feminist rhetoric surrounding De Lima (a Liberal Party senator), for example, breaks down when one considers that De Lima does not fit the mold of the hapless victim of “a society of institutions lorded over (literally) by men.” Mrs. Bautista, some would argue, is not exactly an exemplar of hapless victimhood herself. But De Lima is a Philippine senator and her lover is a subordinate upon whom she wields clear power over.
Between the colegiala profile Mrs. Bautista cuts today and the brass-balled persona De Lima brings to bear in her numerous media rampages, one couldn’t help but be baffled by the choice of people Filipino “feminists” led by the likes of Hontiveros prefer to rally behind.
The short of it is that Mrs. Bautista blew the whistle on a powerful man and, now, finds herself up against a diminished but still-powerful clique of politicians institutional leaders, and “influencers”. That’s pretty much the same sort of situation the average hapless rape or harassment victim faces when she mounts the courage to face her oppressors. Real feminists encourage that sort of initiative. It gives them something to work with in championing their cause. Unfortunately, Filipino “feminists” are poor copycats who, under the shadow of their political overlords only manage to exhibit a pale shadow of the real thing.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.