Artists call for 'independent' probe into alleged sexual assault at Iligan workshop
MANILA, Philippines – Several artists and artists groups on Monday, August 12, called for an "independent, immediate and thorough probe and a just resolution" to allegations that a writing fellow was sexually assaulted during a recent writers' workshop.
In a statement released through the Concerned Artists of the Philippines' Facebook page, several artists groups said organizers of the Iligan National Writers Workshop should also "face accountability for [their] actions."
In particular, the workshop organizers were criticized for revealing the name of the aggrieved while "protecting the name of the accused"; for the lack of "concrete initiatives to file a formal investigation and police report"; and for "making the aggrieved feel unwelcome" by distancing themselves from the allegations.
The following signed the statement:
- Concerned Artists of the Philippines
- Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo
- Sining Kadamay
- SINAGBAYAN (Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan)
- Panday Sining
- Alay Sining
- BIEN (BIEN Pilipinas)
- Gantala Press
- Save San Roque
- Better Living Through Xeroxography
- Emiliana Kampilan (Dead Balagtas)
- Kaisahan ng mga Artista at Manunulat na Ayaw sa Development Aggression
What's happening? In early August, users on Facebook and Twitter posted about an alleged instance of sexual assault at the Iligan workshop. Later on, writing fellow Tiny Diapana posted on Facebook, saying the incident two months ago brought her "nothing but anguish and heartache."
"I was sexually taken advantage of by a panelist during a national writers workshop that I had attended this year," she wrote.
Diapana gave a detailed account of what happened on her Facebook note, where she said that the sexual assault took place inside a room of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology's (MSU-IIT) university hostel as the workshop celebrated its closing ceremony on May 31.
Diapana shared that she was drunk that night and blacked out thrice, having little recollection of "sexual things" that took place.
Keynote speaker and panelist Timothy James Dimacali, who was said to have been involved in the incident, "vehemently" denied the allegation.
In a public Facebook post Sunday, August 4, Dimacali said that while he "acknowledged the seriousness of the allegation" and understood that "any sexual misconduct should be condemned," he was ready to defend himself at a "proper forum."
The workshop's director, Christine Godinez Ortega, said MSU-IIT, which hosts the program, would support any probe of the NCCA if it opened one. She said the incident was already being investigated by the MSU-IIT legal office and security office.
"NCCA or any other entity is welcome to conduct the probe anytime," Ortega earlier told Rappler.
Beyond Iligan. In their statement, the artists groups pointed out that the alleged incident in Iligan "does not seem to be an isolated case."
"It is the latest of assault narratives deploring sexual misconduct within the Philippine arts and culture community in recent years. This points to a more systemic social problem of gendered violence, the acts of which seem to be abetted and emboldened with the Duterte regime's overtly misogynistic rhetoric and threats," read their statement.
Aside from their call for accountability, the groups also challenged institutions – including the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Mindanao State University, among others – to make sure that women are "defended and protected" from violence and gender-based offenses based on the Magna Carta for Women.
"We express concern that the aggrieved or other people lending solidarity to her fight face the threat of legal or other forms of retaliation from those in positions of bureaucratic power and influence," they added.
The group also singled out the poem "Gahasa sa Gahasa" which circulated after Diapana went public. The poem, the artists said, "symbolically reinforce, exalt, and reenact sexual violence, or the premises that attempt to justify it."
"Rape is not a free-for-all writing prompt to bolster one's literary oeuvre. Art should never be an excuse for inaction or for justifying exploitation." – Rappler.com