Women’s rights advocates in the Philippines have launched the #BabaeAko (I am a woman) campaign aimed at calling out the “anti-women” remarks and behavior of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The campaign recently mobilized social media support after Duterte was criticized for kissing a married woman on the lips amidst the cheers of his supporters in a public function in Seoul, South Korea on June 3, 2018.
One aspect of the campaign encouraged women to post a video message addressed to Duterte followed by a pledge of “lalaban ako” (I will fight back).
Government spokesmen have justified the “kissing scene” as a “light moment” that is “accepted in Filipino culture” while Duterte himself boasted that “we enjoyed it” and that critics “are just envious”. To his critics, however, the event exhibited in full view Duterte’s notion of women as mere objects of desire and entertainment.
The #BabaeAko social media campaign was launched on May 20, 2018, shortly after Duterte made a statement that the next ombudsman should not be a woman. He has cursed UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, put opposition Senator Leila de Lima in jail, and ousted Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno from office, among others.
Callamard, De Lima, and Sereno are all vocal critics of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that has, according to some estimates, already killed over 20,000 people.
Duterte is notorious for giving rape jokes in his official speeches, having catcalled a female reporter in a press conference, and even having ordered troops to shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.
Below are some #BabaeAko posts on Facebook. This is by the Gabriela Women’s Party representative in Congress, Arlene Brosas:
I am a woman, Arlene Brosas, Gabriela Women’s Party representative in Congress. I am opposed to the macho, fascist, patriarchal, and feudal culture of the Duterte regime. I will fight back.
This is from a video by Judy Taguiwalo, a university professor and former cabinet member turned staunch critic of the Duterte administration:
I am a woman, Judy Taguiwalo, a patriotic teacher. I thought Duterte serves the Filipino people. It turns out he is subservient to [late dictator of the Philippines Ferdinand] Marcos, [former president of the Philippines] Gloria [Arroyo], [US President] Trump and China. For this just and free nation, I will fight back.
The next transcript is from a video by theater artist and activist Mae Paner, better known as Juana Change:
I am a woman, I am Juana Change, a patriotic artist. Through my art, I will continue to fight for truth and reason, justice and freedom, to the best of my ability. We will reckon with each other. I will fight back.
This is from a video by veteran journalist and press freedom advocate Inday Varona:
Babae ako, si Inday Espina Varona, isang lola. [I am a woman, Inday Varona, a grandmother.] I will not allow my grandchildren to grow up in a world without due process, where a President thinks of death and murder as the solution to social problems. Kaya lalaban ako. [Thus I will fight back.]
Here are some #BabaeAko posts on Twitter:
That you have none other than the president of the country trivializing rape and making jokes about sexual harassment. #BabaeAko allows anyone, not just women to speak out and be heard.https://twitter.com/AJStream/status/1004098123734704130 …The Stream
What are some of the key issues facing women in the Philippines? Tweet us your thoughts for our conversation on #BabaeAko.
The Philippine President kissing a Filipina on the lips in South Korea made my stomach turn.
Duterte continuously abuses his power over women, the poor, and others whom he thinks he can exercise power over.
I am a mother, a teacher, a Filipino. I condemn Duterte for being a misogynist and making it “acceptable” for women to be hated and attacked. He is a foul-mouthed, lily-livered tyrant. My children, I, and this country deserve better. I will fight back.#BabaeAko
She was initially reluctant, but he is a very powerful man and the cheering crowd was putting her on the spot. Her eventual “consent” didn’t make the act right.
This is toxic machismo. Shed the male gaze. Women are not conquests. Do not embrace your own oppression. #BabaeAko
In response, officials at Malacañan Palace (the official residence of the president) threw shade at the #BabaeAko campaign, saying this was merely “politically-motivated” against the president. Duterte then vowed to resign if “enough women” protest his controversial kiss. A #BabaeAko protest was held on Philippine Independence Day, June 12, in major cities in the country.