Duterte on Women's Month: Empower Filipinas, break 'backward mindset'

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2021 12:51 PM | Updated as of Mar 08 2021 02:56 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines in Cagayan De Oro City on March 5, 2021. Karl Norman Alonzo, Presidential Photo

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte, who has several times drawn criticism for comments on women and rape jokes, reiterated on Monday his appeal for the public to mark Women's Month by rejecting "backward mindset" and empowering Filipinas. 

Duterte said the government can "proudly claim" that it took actions "to create an environment where women's rights are respected and their contributions to society are recognized." 

"Let us elevate women to their rightful place in society by empowering every Filipina to break not only barriers that have long hindered them from reaching their full potential, but also the backward mindset that fueled a culture of gender oppression and inequality," the President said in a statement. 

He urged the public to support advocacies which "seek to fight for and acknowledge the inalienable rights of women as equal partners of men." 

Duterte made the same call last week. 

This prompted an angry response from Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, who said, "President Duterte, napakaplastik mo."

"Paano mo nasisikmurang bigkasin ang mga salitang women empowerment gayong pinapa-disqualify mo nga ang Gabriela Women's Party, ang nag-iisang party list representative ng kababaihan sa buong mundo?" she said during the Makabayan bloc's weekly press briefing.

(You're a hypocrite. How could you stomach saying the words women empowerment when you want us, the sole women's party-list representative in the world, to be disqualified? from Congress?)

Brosas was referring to the government's anti-communist task force's pending bid to cancel Gabriela's party-list registration over their alleged links to the armed movement. 

Duterte in several instances has spawned allegations of sexism over his comments on women. 

In November 2020, Duterte and other government officials joked about sex and womanizing during a post-typhoon briefing in calamity-hit Camarines Sur. This prompted a reminder from the Commission on Human Rights that the objectification of women is a form of violence.

In January, Duterte said women were not fit to be president. 

Women's rights advocate Rina Jimenez-David has said some of Duterte's female critics have faced serious consequences, like detained Sen. Leila de Lima, ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes-Sereno, and journalist Maria Ressa. 

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