Palace says Duterte never disrespected others amid signing of "Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act''
President Rodrigo Duterte never disrespected any person, much more a woman, Malacanang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement following his signing of Republic Act No. 11313 or the "Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act," also known as the "Bawal Bastos" law, on April 17. But a copy of the law was only made public recently.
The law seeks to promote equality, security, and safety of both men and women not only in private but also on the streets, public spaces, online, workplaces and educational and training institutions.
The law said the gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment includes catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person's appearance, relentless requests for personal details, statement of sexual comments and suggestions, public masturbation or flushing private parts, groping, or any advances, whether verbals or physical, that is unwanted and has threatened one's sense of personal space and physical safety.
Panelo said the mere fact Duterte signed the law, it means "he will be the first one to obey the law."
On criticisms against Duterte for allegedly disrespecting women, including detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima, in some of his speeches, the spokesman said, "He never was bastos (rude)."
"When he cracks jokes, it was intended to make people laugh, never to offend. If you will just listen to the jokes of the President, you'd really laugh. The audience, isn't they give hearty laughter. Not rude," said Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel.
"So this law should benefit all so that everyone should be cautious to make some sexist remarks that may be offensive to those who are more sensitive," he added.
Women groups, such as Gabriela Women's Party, raised doubt that the law could be fully implemented under the Duterte administration.
Gabriela claimed that Duterte represents "the single most brazen violator of the law's intent with his staple macho-fascist remarks."
Duterte earlier ordered the soldiers to shoot female rebels in their vagina. He also "confessed" of molesting their maid when he was a teenager. When he was still the President-elect, Duterte allegedly catcalled a television reporter during a televised press conference in Davao City.
In many of his speeches, Duterte insulted De Lima on her supposed sex video scandal.
Under the new law, Panelo said its violation is always personal.
"The crime is always personal. You have to be personally offended by the offender. And you have to prove that you are the subject of that offensive demeanor by the offender," he said.
Asked if Duterte would be held liable if in the future he would again attack his critics, such as De Lima, using unpleasant words, Panelo said, "if the President commits any violation of any law, then any person can sue him for that violation."
"If you argue that, ‘Well, he is immune,’ well you can always sue him after the presidency. No one is above the law, including this President, and he always tells us that," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS