"The President's words and acts are case studies of the destructive turns that our cultureís patriarchal attitudes and practices take."
Fresh from his “Pagkatapos ng
operation, kailangan natin ng babae”
statement to soldiers in Compostela Valley last Dec. 22, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte outdid himself by telling an audience that he molested a housemaid when he was a teenager.
In speech last Dec. 29 during the distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Award to agrarian reform beneficiaries in Kidapawan City, Cotabato, Duterte claimed that he confessed to a priest that he touched a sleeping maid’s private parts when a student at the Ateneo de Davao University. He also said a priest touched him inappropriately while at confession.
Rep. France Castro (Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party-list) said of Duterte that he is “truly a sick man.” She added that instead of taking the opportunity to help people dealing with the calamities that have struck at year end, Duterte still manages to tell such stories. “’Di kailangang mga tao ang ganitong kuwento
,” she said. [The people don’t need this kind of story.]
Gabriela: Alliance of Filipino Women took a darker view of the matter, saying in a Dec. 30 statement: “It is deeply disturbing even for Duterte to brag about attempting to rape a maid when he was a minor… The maniac in Malacañang has proven that he had no qualms violating the rights of women [and] people of lower stature and viewed them as his own personal toy.
“This latest confession has brought shame not only on himself but on the entire nation that trusted him to lead judiciously and righteously. He has proven himself unworthy of his position and should resign.”
Meanwhile, the Palace, which routinely ‘interprets’ Duterte’s controversial statements, claimed his latest remark was only a “made-up”, “laughable anecdote to dramatize the fact of sexual abuse that was inflicted on him and his fellow students when they were in high school.”
‘Made-up’—that’s usually the go-to excuse when explaining away something truly offensive and horrible such as this.
‘Laughable’—was it a joke? In 2017 the CHR deplored Duterte’s rape ‘jokes’ as contributing to the normalization of rape. Does the President think that getting laughs validates his misogynistic behavior? His so-called ‘jokes’ reinforce a toxic masculine mindset.
Was it a cry for help? Duterte often lambasts the Roman Catholic Church by referring to child abuse committed by priests. Shall we construe his “anecdote” as the tale of an abused teen becoming himself an abuser? As I discussed in my Dec. 31 column, childhood trauma of all kinds—sexual, psychological, physical, emotional—can lead to the abused person becoming an abuser themselves later, whether as a bully, wife beater, and so on.
For the sake of argument, if Duterte actually committed the lewd act, could it have been not so much an offshoot of abuse but a manifestation of the patriarchal and feudal thinking that he grew up with? The mindset typical of his generation puts male privilege above women’s well-being and safety, particularly that of women of lesser social stature.
In terms of his misogyny, Duterte serves as an example of “what not to do.” His words and acts are case studies of the destructive turns that our culture’s patriarchal attitudes and practices take.
And if his claims of having been molested by priests is true, what is sad about it is that he is both perpetrator and victim, both sinner and sinned against.
Whatever the case may be, he obviously has issues with women and the church, and he is working them out in the public eye. There are some people who think best by hearing themselves speak, and by sharing with others they negotiate their memories, feelings, and beliefs.
However, when one is president, giving speeches to public audiences is not the right way to do this. It is inappropriate. It is not the proper venue. And in consistently passing off his insensitive and rude remarks as “jokes” or “sarcasm,” we see a pattern that reinforces these “anecdotes”as his truth. If he would only control what he says, it would reduce the country’s aggravation and save his spokesmen from constantly having to clean up after his verbal messes.
It looks like he needs help. The President could consider discussing with a psychologist his problems from the past. In doing so he might gain some measure of relief from whatever priestly and female demons haunt him.
Dr. Ortuoste is counting on generational momentum to help change our culture’s patriarchal orientation. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO