DAVAO CITY—The government is considering filing charges against President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, in connection with a complaint filed by women’s groups against him before the Commission on Human Rights, after he told a campaign crowd that he should have been first to have sex with an Australian missionary that inmates had raped and killed in a jail riot in 1989.
News of a possible investigation came as Duterte drew more flak for sexual harrassment and disrespecting women, after he wolf whistled a female journalist during a nationally televised press conference.
Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento said that as soon as his department receives a copy to the CHR resolution citing the complaints that Duterte violated the Magna Carta of Women, they would conduct a preliminary investigation to find probable cause for disciplinary proceedings against him.
But to do so, he said, the department must get an “authority to investigate” from the Office of the President.
“Within 20 days from the receipt of the authority from OP, we should be able to determine whether there is probable cause to warrant the conduct of formal administrative proceedings,” Sarmiento said.
If there is no probable cause, the DILG will recommend a dismissal of the case.
On the other hand, if probable cause exists, the DILG will set the case for preliminary conference and formal administrative proceedings in which both parties will be asked if they prefer a formal investigation or submission of the case for resolution based on the evidence on record.
If warranted, Sarmiento said the DILG may recommend to the Office of the President to impose preventive suspension on the respondent.
On Tuesday night, Duterte interrupted a question from television reporter Mariz Umali about his Cabinet appointees with a comment about her trying to get his attention, then wolf whistling and breaking into a short serenade.
Umali continued trying to ask her question as Duterte smiled and some other reporters laughed.
In an interview on her own network on Thursday, Umali described his remarks as “improper.”
While Umali said she would not ask for an apology and sought not to inflame the controversy, her journalist husband criticized Duterte on his Facebook page.
“Catcalling my wife is wrong in so many levels,” husband Raffy Tima wrote.
“Some jokes are funny and should be laughed at but disrespecting women is definitely not one of them.”
At the same press conference, Duterte said there was a justification of killing corrupt journalists, and that one “rotten son of a bitch” reporter deserved getting murdered.
Duterte, an incendiary politician who won last month’s elections by a landslide on a pledge to end crime by killing tens of thousands of criminals, has previously been criticized for comments about women.
On the campaign trail he made a joke about wanting to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who had been sexually assaulted and murdered in a 1989 prison riot in his hometown of Davao.
When his daughter reacted to those comments by revealing she had been raped, Duterte described her in jest as a “drama queen.”
Duterte, whose first marriage was annulled and is in a long-term relationship with another woman, has also openly boasted about having mistresses and using Viagra to have sex with them.
Aida Santos, president of local women’s rights groups WeDpro, said Duterte’s wolf whistling was a form of sexual harassment.
“Catcalling treats women as sex objects... some say it’s a way of being cute but it’s wrong,” Santos said.
Duterte and his aides have repeatedly said such controversial comments and actions should not be taken too seriously: that he is a straight-talker and an authentic character who likes to joke and speak the language of the streets.
They also point to his pro-women policies in Davao, which he has ruled as mayor for most of the past two decades.
However Duterte’s jokes sent the wrong messages to society, said Elizabeth Angsioco, national chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines.
“His words and actions reinforce looking at women as second-class citizens,” she said. With AFP
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