Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is notorious for cracking gang rape “jokes” and making inappropriate remarks to female journalists, has signed a law against sexual harassment.
Activists said Duterte’s role as “misogynist-in-chief” would make implementation challenging.
The 74-year-old signed the law that prohibits catcalling and sexist slurs in April but his office has only just publicised the event.
The populist president was “the single most brazen violator of the law’s intent with his staple macho-fascist remarks”, tweeted the women’s rights party, Gabriela. “Under this context, implementing the law will certainly be a challenge,” it added.
The law imposes fines and threatens jail terms for sexual harassment in streets, schools and the workplace, including whistling, groping, misogynistic remarks and uninvited comments or gestures referring to someone’s appearance.
“It would be easy for others to violate (the law) if the president himself continuously utters misogynistic statements against women,” said Jelen Paclarin from the Philippine organisation, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau.
“We can only wish that as the president of the Philippines, he will uphold the law and ensure that his cabinet members follow the same,” she told Reuters.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, who drafted the law, said it would fill legislative holes but it was “only as good as how it is implemented”.
Duterte in 2016 wolf-whistled at a female journalist during a televised press conference. He joked about rape while meeting soldiers in 2017.
Last year he kissed a Filipina expat onstage in South Korea in what was seen as abuse of power by the wrinkly septuagenarian.
A presidential spokesman said Duterte recognised there was a need for such law and would be the first to adhere to it.
“Since he is the chief enforcer of all laws of the Philippines, he will be the first one to obey the law,” spokesman Salvador Panelo told the media.
“When he cracks jokes, it was intended to make people laugh, never to offend.”
During Duterte’s successful 2016 electoral campaign he said he had wanted to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who had been raped and murdered during a prison riot in Davao, when he was mayor. He “joked” that the mayor should have been the first.
His repeated comments have not dented his popular support at home.
Calling Duterte as “the misogynist-in-chief”, journalist Inday Espina-Varona said while the legislation was “long overdue, his signing it only rams home the truth: he believes himself above the law”.
Ladies’ men: Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte. Picture credit: White House