Duterte can't change, Palace says after CHR flags 'sexist, misogynistic' jokes

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2020 03:19 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte responds to a query from the media on the sidelines of his visit to the areas affected by Typhoon Ulysses in Camarines Sur on Nov. 15, 2020. Karl Norman Alonzo, Presidential Photo


MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte cannot change, Malacañang said Thursday, after the Commission on Human Rights warned that his recent "sexist and misogynistic" jokes are "forms of violence against women." 

The public should "not give too much meaning to the jokes of the President," which he made during a recent post-typhoon briefing, said his spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Ganoon lang talaga si Presidente, at hindi na siya pwedeng magbago because he's already in his 70s," he told reporters. "Pero walang any malice ang mga joke niya."

(That's just how the President is and he can't because he's already in his 70s. But there is no malice in his jokes.)

Duterte, 75, "stands by his track record" as the former long time mayor of Davao City, "a model city" on upholding women's reproductive rights and protecting them against domestic violence, said Roque. 

Roque urged the public to refrain from emulating Americans. 

"Iyong mga Amerikano, lahat binibigyan ng napakalalim na kahulugan. Pero dito naman sa Pilipinas, let's take a joke for what it is: a joke," he said. 

(Americans give deep meaning to everything. But here in the Philippines, let's take a joke for what it is: a joke.)

In 2019, the "Me Too" initiative against sexual violence swept the US, spawned protest actions, and implicated several prominent personalities like former US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and producer Harvey WeinStein. 

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Duterte earlier this month said he knew Social Welfare Undersecretary for Bicol Affairs Marvel Clavecilla, who attended the typhoon briefing in calamity-hit Camarines Sur, because they were classmates in law school. 

"Pero naubos ang panahon niya sa ano, medyo tumanda na. Nakakatanda talaga ‘yan. Sobrang babae, nakakatanda ‘yan," he quipped in the briefing.

(But he spent his time on women, he got old. That really ages you: too many women.)

Clavecilla replied, "Sabi nga po ni Cong. LRay [Villafuerte] undersex daw po ako, undersex. Kaya kung puwed--kung puwede po gawin mo na akong secretary para hindi na undersex." 

(Cong. LRay Villarfuerte told me I am undersexed. If possible, make me a secretary so that I will not be undersexed.)

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Officials at the briefing could be heard laughing at his statement. 

But in the Palace's official transcript of the briefing, Clavecilla was quoted as saying "undersecs" instead of "undersex." 

Duterte then brought up an acquaintance who supposedly died of the novel coronavirus. 

"P***** i**. Kulang sa babae kung ganoon," Clavecilla replied. 

(He lacked women, if that's the case.)

Vice President Leni Robredo, whose home province is Camarines Sur, said she did not personally hear Duterte's jokes. However, she said if the country is going through "something really serious," the government should "communicate how urgent a particular matter is." 

"Napakahalaga yung mensahe na (it is very important that the message) we are giving utmost urgency on things that are really urgent," she told ANC. 

"Pag dinadaan kasi siya sa or pag binibigyan ng atensyon yung ibang bagay, yung nae-evoke natin, nako-communicate natin, mali; nako-communicate natin na hindi ito ganun kaimportante na seseryosohin natin," she added. 

(If we give attention to other things, what we evoke, communicate is wrong; we are communicating that this is not important enough to take seriously.)

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Women's rights advocate Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas criticized Duterte's "audacity to blabber inappropriate jokes when people literally drowned and died due to the series of calamities."

"Instead of dropping sexist remarks, the government should double time in providing emergency assistance. It should also apologize and explain its lack of preparedness and inadequate response tantamount to criminal neglect," Brosas said in a statement.

"Sa gitna ng sunod-sunod na kalamidad habang nasa panahon ng pandemya, ang kailangan ng mga Pilipino ngayon ay hindi payaso kundi epektibong pamumuno at kongkretong plano. Ilang emergency powers pa ba ang kailangan para mabilis na kumilos ang gobyerno?" she added. 

(In the middle of consecutive calamities during the pandemic, what Filipinos need is not a clown, but effective leadership and a concrete plan. How many more emergency powers are needed to speed up government action?)
CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said Tuesday trivialization and normalization of sex jokes about women should not be tolerated nor excused, "especially as we are a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and we have laws" against these.

"The CHR condemns the… sexual objectification of women. They are forms of violence against women," Gomez-Dumpit said in a statement.

"Sexist and misogynistic remarks are never right and should never be tolerated," she added.