Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has criticized Mr. Duterte for his unrelenting public remarks that undermines women’s dignity and promote sexism, misogyny and violence and abuses against them. De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, made the criticism after Mr. Duterte once again uttered a new sexist remark belittling this time the dignity and rights of incumbent Bohol Mayor Tita Baja-Gallentes.
“Yan ang klase ng Pangulo meron tayo ngayon. Saksakan ang kabastusan! Siya ang pinakabalahurang lider sa buong mundo ngayon,” she said in a handwritten statement.
In a speech last May 8 in Bohol, Duterte said he was captivated by the beauty of Baja-Gallentes and even said that he would hold on to the garter of her underwear to stop her from ever leaving him.
He asked Baja-Gallentes if she would want to elope with him: “Can you run away with me? You have children, don’t you, mayor? How many children do you have? I have three, four. I have four but they’re all grown up already so I don’t have a problem there anymore.”
Even presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo relegated Duterte’s recent sexist remark as a mere “joke,” saying the President was just trying to be funny because “people are always expecting that he will crack some jokes – pakwela lang yun.”
Regardless if Mr. Duterte’s remark was meant as a joke or not, the lady Senator from Bicol maintained that any disrespectful gender-based remark that incites abuse against women should not be tolerated
“Kahiya-hiya! Joke or not, remarks like that are completely loathsome and unacceptable,” she added.
Since Mr. Duterte assumed presidency in 2016, women human rights defenders including De Lima, and activists in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have become vulnerable to harassment and misogynistic attacks and sexual violence. As human rights defender who continues to defy Mr. Duterte even from detention, De Lima has authored and co-authored several bills and resolutions advocating women’s rights, including Senate Resolution No. 670 seeking to strengthen compliance in the execution of gender-responsive programs by GAD to bridge the gap between men and women and Senate Bill No. 1438 focusing on the protection of women in state custody.