Patio, UP Hotel
UP Diliman, Quezon City
8 March 2018
Good morning and a very empowering International Women’s Day celebration to “EveryWoman” present here today!
And when I say “EveryWoman”, first of all, I mean to acknowledge the coalition of organizations and individuals who make up “EveryWoman”, and their partner in today’s event, the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Community Development. Thank you for leading this endeavour, and unifying all of us in asserting and defending the Filipino woman’s dignity and human rights.
So, too, when I say “EveryWoman”, I mean to refer to every person, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, who defends and supports women against all forms of abuse, violence and oppression, whether it be physical, psychological, emotional, economic, political, or otherwise. We all are EveryWoman because all women’s issues are human rights issues, and all human rights issues are women’s issues.
I feel the need to emphasize the universality of so-called “women’s issues” because I want to expose the truth about these attacks against women. They do not only attempt to weaken women’s sense of self-worth, or undermine their contributions to society, but, most insidiously, it makes it difficult – if not impossible – for them to fight for themselves and for others.
These attacks want women to be relegated to one role only: victims. They don’t just call to mind the image of a damsel in distress who needs to be rescued, defended and protected by a man; but, also, a victim who can’t defend herself, much less others.
These attacks are, therefore, both an end in itself and a means to an end: to make us passive objects in our own lives, and in our own families and communities, unable to make any meaningful difference.
That we are all here today is a statement that we will not let ourselves be pigeonholed into the role of victims.
That we will do more than just cry foul about misogynistic attacks, and the other degrading and humiliating treatment of women in society today. In the words used by the organizers, this a “call for actions that go beyond token celebrations.”
What I like best about the campaign called #BantayBastos is that it is, at its simplest, a way to hold people, especially public figures, accountable for their words and actions. Yet, it is the kind of innovative, self-empowering and community-building solution that we need to explore to overcome the obstacles that we face – primarily, the power wielded by those who commit these affronts against women that make them almost immune from any real consequences for their actions.
Sa perpektong mundo, hindi na dapat natin kailangan ng #BantayBastoscampaign, dahil sa perpektong mundo, siguro’y may kahihiyan, delicadeza, dignidad at pagrespeto sa karapatang pantao sana ang ating mga tinatawag na “pinuno” at “lider” ng bayan. Kung hindi man, siguro’y may kahihiyan man lamang silang magpanggap na sila’y mga disente pang tao. But ours is not a perfect world, and these are especially trying times. And we must enforce consequences and accountability in creative ways, if we are to preserve our hope for a better future with better leaders.
This is ground-breaking and I congratulate those who are responsible for formulating and launching it today.
But I must ask everyone here to take caution in this action we are taking.
Essentially, what we are harnessing is the power of media and social media. #BantayBastos could be a powerful weapon, but that only means we have to wield it responsibly. We must not descend to the level of those we are trying to defend against. We must make sure that the actions we take are above reproach, and that there are mechanisms in place to guard against false accusations that have the potential to ruin lives.
I would also ask that #BantayBastos be more than just a way to collect and document gender insensitive, misogynistic and otherwise abusive actions and speech. There must be active and thoughtful discussion as to why we believe that these attacks are dangerous and hurtful to the persons involved and to society at large.
Take, for instance, misogynistic comments made by certain public servants in the past. We cannot ignore the fact that there are those who are much too willing to give such comments a pass as being “harmless” or, as is the trend these days, “a joke”. It is this mentality that we have to change: no, these are not harmless, for it implies that a woman’s worth is tied to her reproductive organs or her relationship to a man. In my own case, what I had hoped for, at the very least, was for a discussion as to why ad hominem attacks have nothing to do with the truth or falsity of my claims of human rights abuses; why a person’s whole humanity and public service record, and the validity of her claims should not be negated by simply slut-shaming her. We must take away this weapon by making it impotent. We cannot do this simply my making a list. We must engage those who need to understand the harmful impact of these acts.
Finally, let us not forget that a “Misogynist List” could possibly become a double-edged sword: it can be used as documentation against the person making the misogynist statement, but it can also be used to further hurt and vilify the subject of the statements.
I say this from the perspective of one who has been on the receiving end of misogynistic attacks. I have been slut-shamed, with my personal life being dragged through the mud in no less than the Halls of the House of Representatives. There is no lack of documentation of the slurs that were hurled against me. They were, and still are, hurtful. But since I know that I was victimized because I stood for what I believed was right, I somehow find the strength to grit my teeth and hold my head up high.
But I am, after all, a public figure myself, and a sitting Senator of the Republic. My power is in my continued public presence, championing the causes of human rights. Not all victims are as fortunate as I am. We must take care that our solution will not just hold perpetrators accountable, but will also help their victims heal, move on and become stronger and more productive citizens.
In this information age – where anyone can peddle their own version of so-called “truths” – it is becoming a luxury to be able to have control of the narrative of our own lives. I hope that #BantayBastos becomes a powerful tool in helping victims – women or otherwise – reclaim control of their lives, as well as demand accountability from public figures.
On a personal note, I am very grateful to the organizers for your continued support throughout my ongoing ordeal. My persecutors may believe that they have caused me to suffer so many losses these past twenty months, but, in truth, it only made me see just how many blessings I have gained, especially in the form of allies, who are tirelessly committed in defending human rights and dignity – even, and especially, under difficult and dire circumstances. Ika nga, sa pagsubok tunay na nalilinang ang matatag na samahan at pagtutulungan. Kayo at ang suporta ninyo po – para sa akin, para sa pagtatanggol sa karapatang pantao, at para sa paglaban sa mga mapang-abuso – ang silver lining at blessings sa buhay ko ngayon na bumubuhay sa aking pag-asa.
I have full faith and confidence that this campaign, in the able and compassionate hands of EveryWoman will be a success and will be the source of hope for other victims of misogyny and other abusive conducts.
Thank you and good morning!