Personal Essays

An Open Letter to

President Rodrigo Duterte From

A Woman Catcalled Everyday

by Maria Romero, February 21, 2019 9:02am

Art by Dani Elevazo

Personal Essays

An Open Letter to President Rodrigo Duterte From A Woman Catcalled Everyday

by Maria Romero, February 21, 2019 9:02am
Art by Dani Elevazo
 

Dear Mr. President,

As “The Punisher,” we looked up to your strongman personality to make new and effective approaches for our nation’s growth. We’re not interested in making the same mistakes as past administrations. But we’re deeply interested in what more you will do with only three years left in your term—that’s if you don’t seek an extension.

I know The Philippines has promising years ahead if only great powers such as yours are used wisely.

Here’s a short story: Have you ever heard of The Office? It’s an American “mockumentary”; a sitcom about the people of Dunder Mifflin Scranton Branch. One of the prominent characters in the show was Michael Scott, a self-proclaimed “World’s Best Boss.” While his wit made him a notable character in the show, his extremely high level of self-esteem and sometimes misogynistic and problematic remarks somehow reminded me of your governance. Just like him, you always managed to get out of your troubles, and the only difference is his world is fictional, yours is real.

You repeatedly brandished your love for women and respect for the LGBTQIA+ community, yet your actions said otherwise. The moment you publicly kissed an OFW in Korea, ordered police to shoot women’s vagina, and laughed at a nun who got raped set a dangerous precedent in this already divided nation. It may have drawn cheers from your avid fans, but it disgusted women advocates. We don’t fight for our rights only to see our president behave discourteously about it. But I believe you’re a bigger person than that, so I’m writing to make a request.

On Wednesday, February 6, the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on Senate Bill 1326 also known as Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017. It seeks to protect Filipinos from sexual misconduct in public spaces and to penalize catcalling, wolf-whistling, homophobic and sexist slurs, or any advances, whether verbal or physical. One of the striking features of the proposed measure is the expansion of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 penalizing acts of sexual harassment committed in schools.

We don’t fight for our rights only to see our president behave discourteously about it.

This measure, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of the bill, will fill the gaps in the existing laws protecting people in public spaces from abusers and harassers no matter who they are.

I write on behalf of all the people who have been robbed of their confidence by rude people’s misconduct. In a society that lacks public safe spaces, this proposed act is our chance to better protect Filipinos, especially women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, from bigotry and hatred we experience in the streets every day.

Women are being objectified by catcallers and groped in the streets by obscene men every day. This also happens to LGBTQIA+ members and even to men. If abusive people who don’t know how to behave in public aren’t castigated, we will only cultivate a toxic environment. This should never be normalized.

With this soon-to-be-law, harassers will have to take accountability for their actions; intrusive people who don’t know the effects of their actions will also learn their lessons. For sure, you also want to create a safe environment for the generations to come.

Women are being objectified by catcallers and groped in the streets by obscene men eveyrday.

Once the House of Representatives ratifies the proposed measure, it will be sent to your office for your signature.

We need Safe Spaces more than ever to enable allies to gain insight into issues people experience, provide a place to hear marginalized voices, and to allow people to share the challenges they face with their social identity and standing. We aren’t in Dunder Mifflin Scranton Branch. You aren’t Michael Scott; this is the Philippines in 2019 setting, and homophobic and sexist slurs should no longer be welcome here.

We are counting on you, Mr. President.

Maria,
A woman, a subject for sexual misconduct in the streets every day

 

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