Roque: Duterte ‘serious’ about promoting women’s rights

Pia Ranada
Roque: Duterte ‘serious’ about promoting women’s rights
On the second day of Women's Month, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque insists, 'The President does not promote violence against women'

MANILA, Philippines – As the country celebrates National Women’s Month this March, Malacañang defended the record of President Rodrigo Duterte in advancing women’s rights and welfare.

Despite Duterte drawing flak for his misogynistic jokes, including an order to shoot female rebels in their vagina, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque insisted on Friday, March 2, that the President is “serious” about protecting the dignity of women.

“The President has been serious in advancing the lot of Filipino women in this country,” Roque  said during a press conference in Paniqui, Tarlac, on Friday, March 2.

“The President does not promote violence against women,” he added.

Roque again employed his usual defense of Duterte’s controversial jokes about women.

“Let us not take the words of the President literally, but of course, we should take the President’s word seriously,” he said.

Roque had earlier described feminists as “OA”  (over-acting) and advised them to just laugh at Duterte’s sexist jokes.

Actions, not words

To make a case for how Duterte has promoted women’s rights, Roque listed down some pro-women policies the Chief Executive has implemented during his administration.

Among those mentioned was Duterte’s Executive Order No 12 which ensures full government support for the implementation of the Reproductive Health law.

Duterte’s recent ban on the deployment of  Filipino workers to Kuwait is also a pro-women initiative, said Roque, because it was borne out of concern for female Filipino workers abused by their employers in the Gulf country.

Roque cited Philippine National Police statistics that showed a drop in rape cases from 2016 to 2017.

“Rape, per Philippine National Police figures, has gone down by 13.53% to 8,114 in 2017, compared to 9,384 incidents in 2016,” said Duterte’s spokesman.

Roque also mentioned some pro-women programs implemented while Duterte was Davao City mayor, including dedicated police desks for domestic violence cases and local implementation of reproductive health policies. Read more about these policies here.

No unfair treatment of female critics?

Roque also addressed questions on Duterte’s “unfair treatment” of his prominent female critics, such as Senator Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“It’s not true they are experiencing unfair treatment,” Roque said in Filipino.

In the case of De Lima, who earned Duterte’s ire for investigating his drug war and the Davao Death Squad, Roque said she has yet to be declared guilty. De Lima has spent over a year in jail for alleged involvement in illegal drugs. (READ: De Lima: One year of living and surviving in jail)

“She was justice secretary for 6 years and chairman of the Commission on Human Rights for 3 years. She didn’t do anything to fix our criminal justice system. Now, if she is having a hard time with the criminal justice system, she should blame herself,” said Roque.

As to Sereno, Roque insisted Malacañang has nothing to do with bid to impeach her, saying those who had spoken out against the chief magistrate are her fellow justices.

‘Culture of violence’

On the second day of Women’s Month, various women’s groups slammed Duterte for fostering a culture of violence against women.

“The Duterte administration has repeatedly disrespected the 1987 Constitution and Magna Carta of Women with his anti-women remarks which are always passed off as ‘jokes.’ These actions only show his deep-seated misogyny that further contributes to the normalization of sexual violence against women and girls,” said Jelen Paclarin, Executive Director of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau. 

Lisa Garcia, Executive Director of Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), said that “misogyny is also about controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance.”

“This anti-women culture is very evident in our society wherein women who dare to be vocal are made fun of and insulted by people, and their opinions are disregarded by the President himself as he reduces them to mere body parts,” Garcia said. –


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at