Philippine showbiz’s Megastar, Sharon Cuneta, tweeted on June 20 that she was hunting down the man who had allegedly threatened to rape her daughter, Frankie Pangilinan, and that Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra is a friend and her lawyer since 1992.
The DOJ has since identified the person who posted the threat on a Facebook comment and traced his location outside the country. In. Just. Three. Days.
Most comments on social media cheered the government’s quick action on this case, especially because misogynistic remarks – as public as Facebook posts and tweets – have been increasingly called out and condemned, but all for naught. There is yet a case that would show infliction on online misogynists.
The Megastar shed all the sweetness, charm, and restraint associated with her onscreen persona. Cuneta’s tweets emitted strong fury:
“What an a**h*le of a father. Considering may anak kayong babae. Oo alam namin. At anuman ang pambabastos ng isang tunay na hayop na tulad mo sa asawa ko at LALONG-LALO NA SA ANAK KONG DALAGA, ay pagpapatunay lamang na may mga demonyong nasa mundo na tulad mo.”
“SONNY F*****G ALCOS. I’M COMING FOR YOU! I GOT THE MEANS, I KNOW THE RIGHT PEOPLE, I GOT THE BALLS.”
“WRONG MOMMABEAR, A****E!
A couple of comments on Cuneta’s tweets expressed amusement that the celebrity mother embraced profanities in the process of protecting her child and referred as well to her blockbuster drama movies where she was portrayed as a strong woman.
But a couple also pointed out that misogyny has been happening online and offline and that the Megastar has never used her voice to call this out. In a similar light, Frankie, tweeted: “… it’s really upsetting me if one vile tweet against me is more important to them than several real cases of sexual assault and rape.”
This Twitter saga mirrors our country’s wretched social inequality. While many women and women’s organizations have perennially struggled to make their voices heard and push actions to protect women, it only took a series of tweets for Cuneta to be heard – loudly. Never mind that the tweets strayed from her well-established public image. Her message was clearly communicated: she has the power and resources to get what she wants.
There are women who were victims of sexual assaults and could not even speak to ask for justice.
For Cuneta, she did not even have to name-drop her powerful relatives in the government. All she had to brandish were her name (she is a Cuneta), wealth (she is a billionaire), and high-profile personal networks built over the years (she knows the DOJ Secretary and can casually tag in a tweet Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat and presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte).
Indeed, her power and resources enabled Cuneta to immediately make good her word to find the man whom she called a “rapist.” Apart from the implied filing of a legal case, there was also an implied move to have the man fired from his job. Her power and resources must have successfully given the man some sleepless nights, and hopefully a sense of remorse, and ideally a needed enlightenment.
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Studies in many parts of the world have shown the effectiveness of Twitter as a platform to communicate and push advocacies; engage the public in discourse; and mobilize political and social actions. There are also studies specific on Twitter being used as a platform to protest online misogyny.
Cuneta’s powerful family name, enormous wealth, and privileged connections are already well-known inside and outside the entertainment industry. Throwing the weight of her power and resources around deflected the public’s attention from calling out misogyny to understanding her social standing. While the fury of a mother toward someone who threatens her child is recognized, the missed opportunity to widen and deepen the discourse on online – and even offline – misogyny is disheartening. The spotlight was supposed to focus on women’s rights.
This recent development shows that the Megastar remains loudly heard. Frankie successfully launched #HijaAko; the “Mommabear” could have helped reinforce the message of this hashtag-battlecry: end the rape culture, end victim-blaming, end violence against women.
Evelyn O. Katigbak is a doctoral student of Communication at the College of Mass Communication, University of the Philippines Diliman