MANILA, Philippines – A new letter signed by women leaders and concerned citizens has been sent to the leadership of the Miss Universe Organization, urging them not to hold the upcoming international pageant's coronation night in the Philippines.
The letter, which can be read on Facebook, protests the recent actions of President Rodrigo Duterte and other elected officials, including their comments about women.
Among the more than 50 signatories in the growing list are businesswoman and civic leader Loida Nicolas Lewis; professor and Rappler columnist Sylvia Claudio; and former Ayala Foundation president Vicky Garchitorena.
The letter summarizes many of the objectionable comments from both the President and government officials that have made news in recent months.
"This reason is the objectionable, scandalous, and demeaning sexist attitude demonstrated by the newly elected leaders of our country, by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, and his cohorts towards womankind. Filipino society has always granted a great amount of freedom and respect to women, but at the same time the gains of womankind in the Philippines have been hard won. True gender equality in terms not only of the law but how laws are applied, and in terms of the attitudes of men towards women, still has a long way to go," says the letter.
"In recent months, chauvinism, brutal shaming, rape jokes and a sweeping disregard for women as persons deserving not merely of a token, but true, respect has been exhibited by the President of the Philippines with his salacious and sexist comments and treatment of female reporters and opposition figures, which has carried over to his allies in the Philippine Congress."
It also points out that continuing with plans to hold the pageant in the Philippines would be a "reward" for this type of behavior, while seeming to excuse it.
"It would make your organization a partner to these backward and dangerous steps which are serious violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)," says the petition.
Here is the letter in full, posted on Facebook by Annie Serrano, who has previously worked with the United Nations Development Programme, the Global Fund for Women, and the Women's Crisis Center, among others:
Still in PH?
So far, Miss Universe owner WME|IMG has not made any official announcements of their own about where the 2017 pageant will be held.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo confirmed back in July that the pageant would be held in the Philippines, to the delight of many Filipinos.
Filipino Pia Wurtzbach is the reigning Miss Universe who captured international attention with a stunning performance at the 2015 pageant.
The Miss Universe pageant was formerly owned by controversial presidential candidate Donald Trump, currently under fire for his own misogynistic comments and actions, but was sold to William Morris Endeavor/IMG in 2015.
Comments about women have been the focus of conversation in recent events. Some female lawmakers and women's groups most recently protested a plan to show an alleged sex tape of Senator Leila de Lima, who led a Senate probe into the rising number of extrajudicial killings following the new administration's declaration of war on drugs.
The alleged sex tape was supposedly to prove her relationship with a former bodyguard and driver, also accused of being her bagman, collecting drug payoffs from convicts inside the prison. It's a move that protesters have called a form of misogynystic slut-shaming. Most recently, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he will not present the alleged sex video at the next House hearing on the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
De Lima had also been on the receiving end of attacks from Duterte. He called her an "immoral" woman when he accused her of having a "driver and lover" who accepted drug money from "Muntinlupa."
Even before his election to the nation's highest post, Duterte has faced criticism for a number of incidents, among them his comments about women. He previously made a widely criticized remark about a raped and murdered Australian missionary, wolf-whistled a female reporter, and made headlines for a "kissing spree" on the campaign trail. – Rappler.com