Philippine leader signs law punishing sexual harassment

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law against various forms of sexual harassment, including persistent telling of sexual jokes, which pro-women’s groups have accused him of committing. (Malacanang Presidential Photo via AP, File)
Updated 16 July 2019

Philippine leader signs law punishing sexual harassment

  • The law defines a range of offensive acts, including catcalling, wolf-whistling, intrusive gazing, cursing, misogynistic acts, sexist slurs, and more
  • Restaurants, bars, cinemas and other places of recreation are required to install clearly visible warning signs against would-be violators

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a bill into law penalizing a range of acts of sexual harassment including catcalling, wolf-whistling and persistent telling of sexual jokes, which pro-women’s groups have accused him of committing.
Philippine officials released on Monday a copy of Republic Act 11313, known as the “Safe Spaces Act,” which Duterte signed in April. The reason for the delay in its public release was not immediately clear.
The bill’s main author, opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, has called the law a “massive victory” against a growing culture of rude sexist actions.
“This is a big victory and a major push back against the growing ‘rude culture’ in our streets and communities,” Hontiveros said. “With this law, we will reclaim our streets from sexual harassers and gender bigots and make public spaces safe for all.”
The law defines a range of offensive acts, including catcalling, wolf-whistling, intrusive gazing, cursing, misogynistic acts, sexist slurs and persistent telling of sexual jokes in public, including in streets, workplaces, vehicles, schools, recreational areas, bars or online.
Other offenses include stalking, exposing “private parts, groping or any advances, whether verbal or physical, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s sense of personal space and physical safety.”
Restaurants, bars, cinemas and other places of recreation are required to install clearly visible warning signs against would-be violators, including a hotline number to allow rapid reporting of offenses, and to designate an officer to receive complaints or apprehend perpetrators.
“It is the policy of the state to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights,” the law says.
Punishments include fines and imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offense. Foreign violators would be deported after serving a jail term and paying fines.
Duterte, 74, a longtime mayor before winning the presidency in 2016, has been known for speeches laden with expletives and sexual jokes. Activists have repeatedly accused him of sexism and misogyny but supporters have defended him by saying he has introduced regulations to protect and uphold women’s rights.
Last year, Duterte publicly ordered troops to shoot female communist guerrillas in the vagina to render them “useless.” A left-wing human rights group, Karapatan, reacted by saying Duterte had distinguished himself “as a frothing-in-the-mouth fascist who incites the worst violations of international humanitarian law.”
Duterte was also criticized for kissing a married woman on the lips in front of a large Filipino audience in South Korea last year. When Duterte asked if she could explain to her husband that the action would be just a joke, she said yes, and the president leaned in and kissed her as the audience erupted in cheers.
“President Duterte acted like a feudal king who thinks that being the president is an entitlement to do anything that he pleases,” Hontiveros said then.


Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

Updated 17 January 2020

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

  • Filipino groups in Dubai are coming together to collect goods for donation for the Taal eruption victims
  • The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country

DUBAI: A vast grey stretched across empty villages – once verdant, now lifeless after volcanic ash wiped its colors. The thick charcoal-like substance cloaked cracked roads, tumbled trees, and dilapidated houses, as an angry volcano rumbled in the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced earlier this week when Taal Volcano, a picturesque tourist spot about 70 kilometers south of Manila, spew huge plume of volcanic ash to the sky and triggered sporadic tremors around the province.

“When can we go back to our homes?” a hopeful man asked Filipino volunteer Jaya Bernardo, as she visited an evacuation site near where the Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday.

She couldn’t answer him straight, Bernardo said, because that meant telling him there might not be anything to go back to.

Bernardo, who lives in a mildly-hit town around Taal, has been going around evacuation centers to give out care packages, saying it’s “important for people to come together” in times like this.

Within hours of the volcanic eruption, the call for help reached the UAE, home to about a million Filipino expats. Many community groups have been organizing donation drives to collect goods to be sent back home.

Lance Japor, who leads a community group in Dubai, said inquiries were coming in about how to help volcano victims even before a campaign was announced.

“What I’ve noticed is that the desire to help others in need is innate to us,” he told Arab News, adding it was not the first time Filipino expats showed urgent concern and care for their countrymen when a calamity hit the Philippines.

There was a strong response for families displaced from a city in the south of the country after armed rebels captured the area. A community group from Dubai flew to the restive city to hand out gifts to families who had taken refuge in an abandoned building.

Japor’s volcano campaign has attracted the help of private companies such as hotels donating blankets and pillows, and cargo companies pledging to deliver the packages for free to the Philippines.

Filipino expats have also expressed a desire to volunteer, Japor added, and a volunteer event has been scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s office in Dubai.

Groups in the UAE are working with organizations in the Philippines to facilitate the donations and determine what the affected communities need. The list includes special face masks and eye drops, said Japor.

The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country.

Volcanic ash has blanketed the area and villages lie empty, with authorities warning of a “bigger eruption” as earthquakes were still being felt around the area. 

The region was at alert level four from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, meaning that “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.” The highest alert level is five.

The institute strongly reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in hazard maps.

“Residents around Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft,” it added.

Police in the area have also warned residents against trying to go back to their houses without official clearance from authorities, but local media reports said people were sneaking back by boat to the island and nearby towns to check on their possessions.