Licuanan on Duterte’s whistling: I’m willing to suspend judgment

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Licuanan on Duterte’s whistling: I’m willing to suspend judgment
A known women's rights activist, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan says she's willing to 'put together what [Duterte] says and actually what he does'

MANILA, Philippines – She was not “totally comfortable” when President-elect Rodrigo Duterte was seen whistling at a female journalist in a nationally-televised press conference, but Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said she’s “willing to suspend judgment” for now.

“I have to understand that his personality is such that he says what’s in his mind, and so I have to reconcile what he says with what he does. So I am told – I don’t know much about it but I am told – that there are good programs in Davao for women,” Licuanan told reporters on Monday, June 6.

During a May 31 press conference, Duterte was caught on camera catcalling GMA7 reporter Mariz Umali, who had just asked him a question. The president-elect later defended himself, saying there was nothing “sexual” behind his whistles.

On Monday, Licuanan said Duterte’s friends told her to “put together what he says and actually what he does.” (READ: Duterte cries freedom of expression after whistling at female reporter)

“I’m willing to do that. I’m willing to suspend judgment. I’m not saying I’m totally comfortable. This is a new personality, a new type of leadership that I will have to deal with. So I think we have to, he’s our president,” she added.

The CHED chairperson is a known women’s rights and empowerment activist.

She chaired the main committee of the 4th World Conference on Women, which helped paved the way for the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA) on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The United Nations considers the BDPA the “most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.”

Perhaps taking cue from the recent statement of Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Licuanan said she will “keep quiet” for now.

Villegas on Sunday, June 5, extolled the virtue of silence amid Duterte’s tirades against the Catholic Church.

Duterte already appointed several people to his Cabinet in the past weeks, but Licuanan expects to stay in CHED since her term as chairperson will not be over until 2018.

She, however, admitted that the president is “unpredictable at the moment.” –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.