MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature on the Bawal Bastos law or Safe Spaces Act raised not a few eyebrows since the Chief Executive himself has been strongly criticized for sexist slurs and gestures now punished by the new measure.
But Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, on Tuesday, July 16, said such thinking is baseless. As far as Malacañang is concerned, Duterte was “never bastos” (never rude).
“You assume that the President is bastos. He never was bastos. When he cracks jokes, it was intended to make people laugh, never to offend,” said Panelo during a Palace news briefing.
The spokesman said proof of Duterte’s supposedly innocent intentions when cracking rape jokes and other sexist remarks is the reaction of his audience: “hearty laughter.”
He then said women should know the difference when someone is being offensive or just being funny.
“Iba naman ‘yung pambabastos eh. You women should know that. Iba ang dating ng bastos saka ‘yung nagpapatawa lang (Being offensive is different. You women should know that. Someone rude will strike you as different from someone who is just trying to make you laugh),” he said.
Duterte ‘first’ to follow new law
The spokesman then gave assurances that Duterte will be the first to abide by the provisions of the Bawal Bastos law. He signed it, after all.
“Since the President signed that law, it means he recognizes the need for that law. Since he is the chief enforcer of all laws of the Philippines, he will be the first one to obey the law,” said Panelo.
Panelo tried to refute claims that Duterte’s past actions would be violations of the Bawal Bastos law if it had been in place then.
Duterte, he said, never made sexual slurs against specific people, which is necessary to prove a crime, said Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Counsel.
“You have to be personally offended by the offender and you have to prove you are the subject of that offensive demeanor,” said Panelo.
Duterte’s words, actions
But several presidential actions come to mind that sound like violations of the Bawal Bastos law. (READ: From ‘fragrant’ Filipinas to shooting vaginas: Duterte’s top 6 sexist remarks)
He’s threatened to release an alleged sex video of Senator Leila de Lima, among his fiercest critics, at a time when she was investigating his links to death squads. He had also referred to her as an “X-rated actress” for supposedly appearing in a sex video.
Uploading and sharing video with sexual content, without the consent of victims, is considered a form of online sexual harassment punishable by a fine of up to P500,000 or imprisonment up to 4 years and 2 months.
Wolf-whistling, which Duterte did to GMA-7 reporter Mariz Umali during a press conference back in May 2016, is punishable by a P1,000 fine and 12 hours of community service plus required attendance at a Gender Sensitivity Seminar.
“Sexist slurs” and “persistent telling of sexual jokes” carry the same penalty for first-time offenders. Duterte has drawn widespread condemnation for repeatedly making rape jokes, like when he said there were many rape cases in Davao City because there were many beautiful women there, or when he said he should have been first to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who died in a prison riot. (READ: Not just a joke: The social cost of Duterte’s rape remarks)
While Panelo said Duterte never meant to offend any specific person with his sexual slurs, there were instances when the President targeted specific people for remarks with a sexual twist. (READ: The Duterte Insult List)
For instance, he called vetertan journalist Ellen Tordesillas “every inch a prostitute.”
He also “joked” that he wanted to “borrow” columnist Francisco Tatad’s wife, Fenny, to spite him for making claims about his health.
“You really want to test if we really have [it]? You have a wife. You lend her to me, you son of a bitch,” said Duterte, addressing Tatad in a February 15 speech. – Rappler.com