A WOMEN’S rights group slammed Metro Manila Development Authority chairman and senatorial aspirant Francis Tolentino Friday for bringing scantily clad women to a Liberal Party event in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, and the 58th birthday celebration of Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao.
“Gabriela strongly condemns the use of scantily clad dancing women for entertainment, purportedly as a surprise gift from MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino on the birthday of Laguna Rep. Benjie Agarao which coincided with a Liberal Party activity,” said Gabriela secretary general Joan Mae Salvador.
Video of the performance posted on the Internet showed a female dancer grinding down on a supine male. In another segment, a female dancer bent over and twerked in front of the standing male.
On social media, critics ridiculed the Liberal Party as “the Liberal Perverts” who practiced the “Tuwad na Daan.”
“Despite Tolentino’s denial, the fact remains that he was not appalled by the incident and did not have the decency to stop the show when it was obviously becoming lewd,” Salvador added.
She also criticized Agarao for trying to defend Tolentino by saying he did not bring the girl group Playgirls to his birthday celebration.
“Even Congressman Agarao did not find anything wrong with the show and obviously enjoyed it. What is worse is that the Liberal Party condoned such an objectification of women. The fact that LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas graced the event means it was a major LP affair,” she said.
Salvador said Tolentino was lying when he denied taking the girls to the LP event.
“Tolentino and his LP cohorts committed an act most offensive to women and insulting to the public. If this is the kind of leaders who have the gall to run for office in next year’s elections, we must not let them win for the sake of the women and the country,” she said.
On Thursday, Roxas swore in over 80 new members of the Liberal Party from Laguna’s fourth congressional district.
After the event, the Playgirls, a group of three women, came in to provide the entertainment, and even invited some LP members to join a parlor game filled with sexual innuendos.
The emcee of the event introduced the girls group to the crowd, saying they were brought by Tolentino, who earlier said he had even asked the girls to wear skirts.
In the Facebook account of the Playgirls, photographs of them were posted showing they also performed during the April 20, 2013 campaign of Tolentino’s brother, Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, and that they were thanking the MMDA chief for inviting them.
The Palace said Friday President Benigno Aquino III will not condone the lewd dance performed by an all-female group who performed after a Liberal Party oathtaking ceremony.
“Women are not objects to be given away as gifts during celebrations. The President has always stood firm against the exploitation of women and will not condone such displays of disrespect,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a text message to Palace reporters.
Despite the public outcry, House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II joked that the Playgirls might be invited to a congressional hearing so they could reenact their dance because he had not watched the video.
Turning serious, he said there was no need for Congress to get involved because the dance was performed at a private occasion that coincided with the oathtaking of some local LP officials.
“I cannot interfere with what was happening during the birthday party, on how a birthday celebrant should have run the program of the occasion which is a private gathering, in the same manner that I cannot stop the Speaker if he feels like twerking,” Gonzales said referring to 79-year-old House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. who celebrated his birthday Friday.
Gonzales also defended the LP, saying its members in Laguna should not be blamed for the incident, but advised Agarao and other candidates to be sensitive in the conduct of their campaigns for the 2016 national elections.
Tolentino said he was just a visitor at the event and did not bring the dancers. The emcee was misinformed, he added.
Roxas, who was at the event earlier, had left when the dancers performed.
A youth group on Friday demanded an apology from the ruling Liberal Party, which is headed by President Benigno Aquino III, for the lewd show at a political event in Laguna.
The Partido Manggagawa-Kabataan, the youth wing of the militant Partido Manggagawa, said the performance was offensive to women.
“We challenge MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino and Laguna Rep. Benjie Agarao to issue categorical apologies. Their insincere denials are worthless and lame excuses are even worse. We want to hear Tolentino and Agarao declare that the performance was offensive to women, say they are sorry for it and promise not to have similar acts in their upcoming political events,” Erika Isaias, PMK spokesperson said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said Friday he would investigate the “lewd show,” saying the “exploitative gimmickry” was unacceptable to the Liberal Party.
As sworn adherents to the Tuwid na Daan (straight path), LP members are expected to display morally upright behavior, Drilon said.
“Those who fail to prove to the nation that they are good and morally responsible public servants have no place in our ranks,” he added.
But Agarao said “a real man” like him saw nothing lewd in the performance, and that the girls merely danced in public. He added that a lot of congressmen watched similar shows in Metro Manila until dawn.
Tolentino, already widely criticized for his failure to ease traffic in Metro Manila, said it is the President who should decide if he should remain in his post.
PSLINK, the same group that demanded Tolentino resign for his failure to solve the traffic problem, said regardless of who brought the performers, the Liberal Party stalwarts should have stopped the act. With Vito Barcelo and Joel E. Zurbano
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