MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday dared President Rodrigo Duterte to follow the so-called “Bawal Bastos" law which he signed earlier this year.
"I challenge the President to follow to the letter the very law he signed and set an example not only as a law-abiding citizen but as a leader who respects everyone," Hontiveros, among principal authors of the law, said in a statement.
Republic Act 11313 or the "Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act" signed by the President in April seeks to prevent gender-based sexual harassment from occurring in streets, public places, workplaces, educational and training institutions, and online.
Duterte has made controversial remarks about women, which some groups find to be misogynistic or sexist.
He has drawn flak many times for his comments, particularly for his joke about an Australian woman raped in Davao City in 1989.
Despite Duterte’s numerous controversial statements, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted the President was never “bastos” (inappropriate) but was only making jokes.
Panelo also said the President would be first to follow the new law.
In her statement, Hontiveros also hit Malacañang, asserting that the bill had lapsed into law.
"I find it odd that after the Bawal Bastos Act lapsed into law last April 19, as confirmed last May by then officer-in-charge Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Malacañang suddenly came up with a copy of the law yesterday signed by President Rodrigo Duterte dated April 17," she said.
"Either this is another case of incompetence on the part of the Duterte government or this is an attempt to rob women and the LGBT community of our historic victory, whitewash the President's unparalleled sexism and misogyny and claim the law as their own achievement leading to the 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA).
She credited those who she said were behind the passage of the law: "women, LGBTs, advocates and legislator-champions."
"It is ours alone," Hontiveros said of the "victory" of getting the law passed.
"We will not allow ourselves and our hard-fought victory to be used to deodorize state-sanctioned misogyny and gender-based harassment," she said.
Under the new law, local government units are mandated to pass ordinances based on the measure, while the Philippine National Police and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority will arrest those who violate it.
Those found guilty of violating the law will be fined P1,000 to P100,000, and may also be imprisoned for 1 month.
Online sexual harassment, cyberstalking, invasion of privacy and harassment in educational institutions are banned. Those found guilty of these acts will be fined P100,000 to P500,000.
Schools and universities are ordered to create standard procedure to be followed in case harassed students or teachers file complaints.
The Philippine Commission on Women will lead in reviewing the implemented provisions of the law along with other government agencies.
Hontiveros said she expects the law to be fully enforced.
"Let this be a warning to all sexists, misogynists, gender bigots and sexual harassers, we will no longer tolerate the bastos culture in our country," she said.
"Whether gender-based harassment is done to women public servants or to ordinary citizens, I expect the full implementation of the law. Bawal na si Boy Bastos!" she continued.
- Report from Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News