Since President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill penalizing sexist remarks toward women, he will be the first one to obey it, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Duterte will follow Republic Act 11313, or the “Safe Spaces Act,” which imposes penalties for unwanted sexual actions or remarks against any person.
“Since the President signed that law, it means that he recognizes the need for that law. Since he’s the chief enforcer of all the laws in the Philippines, he’ll be the first one to obey it,” Panelo said.
Duterte, whose rape jokes have sparked outrage in the past, drew fresh flak Tuesday after signing R.A. 11313, with the campaigners saying his role as the “misogynist-in-chief” would make implementation challenging.
Duterte, who has himself been accused of sexual harassment on multiple occasions, signed the law that prohibits behavior such as catcalling and sexist slurs in April, according to the text released on Monday.
The 74-year-old was “the single most brazen violator of the law’s intent with his staple macho-fascist remarks,” women’s rights political party Gabriela said on Twitter.
Under R.A. 11313, which was authored by Senator Risa Hontiveros, acts or remarks that will count as gender-based harassment will be criminalized, regardless of the motive.
Those acts include catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs; comments or gestures on a person’s appearance; relentless requests for personal details; public masturbation and groping.
Duterte has been repeatedly criticized for his sexist remarks and rape jokes.
He recently drew the ire of women’s rights groups for kissing a married Filipino woman in South Korea. Duterte also said the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court’s post of Chief Justice should not be occupied by a woman.
Panelo defended Duterte, saying he was not uttering sexist remarks to insult women but to make people laugh.
“He never was bastos. When he cracks jokes, it was intended to make people laugh, never to offend. If you will just listen to the jokes of the President, you will surely laugh. He’s not insulting. You, women, should know that. There’s a difference between insulting and joking,” Panelo said.
“When the president delivers his speech and when he shares stories, his intention is either to make you laugh or make the situation more pronounced.”
Despite the passage of the law, Panelo was uncertain if the President would refrain from poking fun at women.
“Let’s see. He’s a man of surprises. Meaning, he can surprise us when he suddenly doesn’t make any jokes,” he said.
“What is important is he signed that into law. Otherwise, he vetoed it if he doesn’t favor it.”
Panelo then explained that under the new law, the ‘‘offended party must be offended personally by an offender.
Women leaders who had opposed Duterte and his policies have become frequent targets of the Chief Executive.
Duterte used to link Senator Leila de Lima, a vocal critic of his war on drugs, to corruption and illegal drugs in the national penitentiary through her alleged sex video.
Asked if this was a case for the newly signed law, Panelo said: ‘‘I don’t think that’s a crime.
For his part, Duterte has repeatedly defended his remarks as part of “freedom of expression.” With AFP