Duterte ‘first to obey’ new law against catcalling, sexual harassment – Palace

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16)— President Rodrigo Duterte, who in the past has been called out by critics for his rape jokes and vulgar tirades, will be the first one to adhere to the “Bawal Bastos” law, his spokesman said Tuesday.

“Since the President signed that law, it means he recognizes the need for the law. Since he is the chief enforcer of all the laws of the Philippines, he will be the first one to obey the law,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing.

Republic Act 11213 or the Safe Spaces Act, signed by Duterte on April 12 and released Monday, will penalize cat-calling and other forms of harassment in public areas.

The president’s affixed signature on the copy of the new law drew flak from netizens and critics, who said implementing the law would be challenging under his leadership.

“He is the chief propagator of a culture that degrades and objectifies women, and that which exhorts cat-callers, sexual offenders and even uniformed personnel to disrespect women. Under this context, implementing the law will certainly be a challenge,” women’s group Gabriela said in a tweet.

Panelo lashed out at critics for assuming that the President was “bastos" (rude), reiterating that the latter’s jokes never meant to offend people.

“You assumed that the President is bastos. He never was bastos. When he cracks jokes, it was intended to make people laugh-- never to offend,” the spokesman said.

“Never siyang nangbastos ng isang partikular na tao (He was never rude to just one person). It does not apply to him,” he added.

READ: It is Duterte’s prerogative to crack rape jokes – police chief

‘Sue the President’

The Safe Spaces Act, principally authored and signed by Senator Risa Hontiveros, outlines gender-based harassment in streets and other public areas, online, in government offices, in workplaces and educational institutions.

Opposition senator Leila de Lima lauded the signing of the law, but said she hopes public officials-- especially Duterte-- will be not be exempt from the penalties.

“I hope that this new law will be implemented strictly and properly, and will not exempt from compliance our public officials, especially Mr. Duterte who is infamous for his sexist jokes and misogynist remarks. He should respect his own signature under a presidential seal affixed in that law,’ the detained senator said in a statement.

Panelo, in response, challenged critics to sue the President if the latter is found to have violated the said measure.

“If the President commits any violation of the law, then any person can sue him for that violation. When you argue well that he's immune, well you can always sue him after his presidency. No one is above the law, including this President,” he said.