MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II on Friday, October 2, reminded members of the ruling party to avoid resorting to “gimmicks” that degrade and offend women, especially if they do “nothing to elevate the level of public discourse.”
Roxas released this statement a day after photos and videos of the all-girls group “Playgirls” dancing and dry-humping the audience during an LP event in Laguna went viral.
On Thursday, October 1, Roxas was the guest of honor in the swearing in of some 80 new LP member sin the 4th district of Laguna. The event was also the birthday party of Laguna Representative Benjamin Agarao, who was host to the oathtaking event.
Online fury was initially directed at Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino, who the party host credited for bringing the girls as a “gift” for LP members in the party. Tolentino has announced he’s running for senator in 2016, likely as part of the ruling party’s slate.
“Pilit pong ikinakabit ng ilang grupo ang ating pangalan sa performance na ito, kahit pa ba nasa ibang bahagi ako ng compound, hindi kasama sa audience, at walang sight lines sa nangyayari. Hindi ko nasaksihan ang performance,” said Roxas in a statement released to media. (There are groups that are trying to link me to the performance in Laguna even if I was in a different part of the compound, was not part of the audience, and did not have sight lines to what happened. I did not see the performance.)
Roxas also gave a reminder to LP members, as the official campaign season draws nearer. “Lilinawin ko po: Mariin kong ipinagbabawal sa anumang aspekto ng ating kampanya ang ganitong uri ng pagsasamantala sa kababaihan,” he said. (Let me make this clear: I will not tolerate, in any aspect of the campaign, this sort of abuse of women.)
Roxas added: “Naniniwala akong may sapat na talino ang publiko upang tumutok sa makabuluhang diskurso ukol sa mga isyu at pagkatao ng mga kandidato (I have faith that the public is smart enough to focus on worthwhile discourse on issues and the character of the candidates).”
Agarao later clarified that it was likely that one of his friends paid for the performance, not Tolentino.
But in photos tweeted by media at the venue, Tolentino was seen near the stage while the girls performed. In an Inquirer report, he was even quoted as saying that he asked the girls to “wear skirts.”
The Palace likewise blasted the “performance,” saying it was not something President Benigno Aquino III, LP chairman, condones.
“Women are not objects to be given away as gifts during celebrations. The President has always stood firm against the exploitation of women and will not condone such displays of disrespect,” said Presidential spokesperson Undersecretary Abigail Valte in a statement to media.
Roxas said: “I remind those who stand with us on the Daang Matuwid: Iwaksi natin ang ganitong klaseng mga gimik, lalo pa’t nakakabastos ito, at walang naitutulong sa pagtataas ng antas ng pampublikong diskurso.” (Let’s stop these kinds of gimmicks especially because they are degrading and do not help in elevating public discourse.)
Roxas said the LP would investigate the incident.
The backlash of the performance has prompted some to call on the LP to sack Agarao from the ruling party.
Recently, the LP sacked one of its members, Camarines Norte Governor Edgardo Tallado after tales of his infidelity to his wife went public.
“The LP can only be a reputable as its members. To enable the LP to be an effective instrument in achieving the Tuwid na Daang, it is necessary that its members should strive at all times to uphold the honor and maintain the dignity of the party, even in their private lives,” the party said in the resolution sacking Tallado.
In a statement, LP vice chairman and Senate President Franklin Drilon also condemned the “performance.” “I am saddened and disappointed by this deplorable incident. I strongly condemn and will not tolerate it,” he said, adding that it was “not befitting and is unacceptable of members of the Liberal Party.”
“I join the LP leadership in vowing to the public that we will get to the bottom of this incident. We will not let the good name of the LP be besmirched with this sorry, isolated case,” he said. – Rappler.com