By now our beloved Philippines has achieved international reputation for wild political free-for-all that's tough to match. Unfortunately, it's also a notoriety we probably won’t be able to live down for a while. The impression going around the world is that this seemingly progressive bastion of American-style democracy in Asia suddenly looks like one of those small, very backward countries in Africa---thanks in part to a warped sense of humor, machismo and entitlement embodied in crude, boastful one-liners of top presidential contender Rodrigo Duterte.
Time Magazine just came out with an essay titled,“ Philippine Presidential Candidate Defends Remarks on Rape,” quoting Duterte as describing his jest-in-rape as “This is how men talk.” The Washington Post headlined the “Leading Philippine Presidential Contender” as saying: “Gang rape victim ‘so beautiful he wishes he had been first...’ " The Los Angeles Times also weighed in on the subject as did newspapers in Germany, Australia, France, the UK and Singapore, as well as the BBC and CNN. All came out with their own commentaries on this jest-in-rape controversy.
Generous comparison with controversial US presidential candidate Donald Trump has become inevitable.
The Australian Embassy, whose late citizen, lay missionary Jacqueline Hamill, was the victim of the gang-rape/slay in the Davao prison on August 15, 1989, put out a terse but straight to the point statement from Ambassador Amanda Gorely: “Rape and murder should never become the subject of a joke. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.”
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, sympathizing with his Aussie colleague, was quoted by CNN Philippines in a carefully worded statement stressing that "Any statements by anyone, anywhere, that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder, are not ones that we condone."
Various human rights and women's organizations here and around the world also chorused vs. Duterte's unbelievably lamentable remarks.
What the controversial Davao leader said when first he viewed the body of the Australian female missionary who was raped and her throat slit by rioting prisoners in Davao---that he wished that as mayor he had first crack at her, given how beautiful the woman was--- was the height of moral depravity. And to think that he alluded to that incident twice in the current presidential campaign and many in his audience of men and women laughed with him---it is sad, so sad.
No wonder the world is in shock that such a man would be a candidate for the highest post in this predominantly Christian nation----and is actually dominating the surveys!. Such remark has absolutely no place in a civilized society dominated by the fear of God and a deep reverence for women. As a number of commentators here and abroad have stressed, something even remotely suggestive as that "jest" would have summarily cut the career of the person dishing it in any civilized setting.
What disturbs right-thinking folks here, however, is that apparently the mayor has not reformed much in this regard----as viewed in photos showing him grabbing women and kissing them against their will. This attitude is very much a part of the sense of entitlement of public officials in this still very politically-feudal country of ours. A major daily prefers to call it in its editorial the droit du seigneur---the right of the lord.
Another thing I cannot understand is how the crowds listening to him saying that jest-in-rape could have snickered and enjoyed it. To paraphrase Vice President Jojo Binay, don’t these people have mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, etc.? This depraved sense of humor, however, is only part of the mystery of why some people would even take Duterte seriously as candidate for President.
As one netizen put it quite vividly, quite upset: “In this political sortie as shown in this video, (Rodrigo Duterte) turned the case of a rape victim into a joke. He said that what he regrets about the case is that the rape victim is so beautiful, and he would have demanded, 'Dapat ang mayor ang mauna.' In another video, he told his story about molesting their housemaid and why he believes it is only venial sin, because 'maid lang siya.' This man is sick! And the culture of sexism he is creating is sickening! The crowds laugh at all his jokes which demean women, making themselves more and more like him. Think of all the women and girls in your life before you vote for Duterte. Think also of the men and boys as well, for you would not want them to become unto the image and likeness of Duterte.”
To be sure, the reaction of Duterte’s adoring fans to his sick joke about the poor Australian missionary, whose only crime was to minister to the inmates of the Davao Penal Colony at that time, is very much a part of the strong protest reaction against the incumbent President and his lackadaisical attitude about everything, and his no-show in times of crises.
Moreover, compared to his wimpy and colorless rivals, the contender from Davao appears to be the exact opposite: all fire and brimstone, swagger and braggadocio personified. The more he dishes out curses and gutter language, the more crowds flock to his rallies.
But it's easy to see that Duterte doesn't have the material to be a good president---with his king-size ego he'll not be able to work with anyone and every week there would be hiring and firing in the Cabinet. What we can see from past events is that a Duterte presidency would produce a most unstable situation for the country.
Results of a psychiatric test conducted in 2000 on Davao's colorful politician by psychologist Natividad Dayan, former President of the International Council of Psychologists, prior to the annulment of Duterte's first marriage, give an interesting image that could have a direct bearing on the future of this country, should he make it this May. The results read in part: "Destructive behavior, lack of self-discipline, poor capacity for objective judgment, lack of capacity for remorse, unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions."
To be sure, that psychiatric assessment was made sixteen years ago, but it is evident from his current behavior that he hasn't changed much. The report should serve as serious food for thought for the electorate in the coming electoral exercise.
Over the past days since the jest-in rape remark erupted, Duterte was stubborn and adamant against apologizing for it, even though he was well aware that he could lose votes. In fact he said he was prepared to lose in the elections rather than surrender something he felt deeply about. But later good sense and fear of losing in the elections appear to have gotten the better of the PDP-Laban under which he is running.
Late night news quoted the PDP-Laban statement on Duterte's behalf which said: “I formally apologize to the Filipino people for my recent remarks in a rally. There was no intention of disrespecting our women and those who have been victims of this horrible crime. Sometimes my mouth can get the better of me.”
Just how far his PDP-LABAN-issued apology would get him remains to be seen. The people have seen the worst of this man. How would this controversy affect his ratings and who stands to profit from his possible fall from grace. Abangan.