THE week before last Valentine’s Day, President Duterte stirred another controversy when he told a group of former communist rebels that he has ordered government troops not to kill female communist fighters but to shoot them in the vagina instead.
“Tell the soldiers,” he said at the gathering in Malacañang. “There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina instead. If there is no vagina, it would be useless.”
The remarks were widely published in the international press. The Washington Post said it was “the latest of several violent, misogynistic remarks.” The Guardian reported that the “(c)rude orders drew anger from human rights organizations and women’s groups in the region.”
The Guardian must have referred to Gabriela and the Philippine Human Rights Watch which chastised Duterte for his remarks. “State terrorism against women” Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus fumed. “It is just the latest in a series of misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements he has made about women,” Philippine Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde chimed in.
Duterte later explained that what he said was sarcasm directed at female rebel soldiers who bear children only to leave them behind to join the New People’s Army. His spokesperson, Harry Roque, accused the president’s critics of being “OA” or overacting.
Sarcastic or not, the remarks were indeed on their face crude and degrading. What does one’s genitals have to do with fighting for an ideology that a woman believes in even if that meant leaving behind her children?
The public would probably have been more understanding if the threat were addressed to women who use the genitalia as instruments (in the commission) of a crime like the three females who were intercepted at the Cebu city jail last week trying to smuggle in a significant amount of shabu and Nubain.
News reports said jail guards found the contraband placed in a condom which each woman inserted in her most private part. Apparently, the mouth of the prophylactic was left protruding from its hiding place for easier retrieval. Unfortunately for them, the guards noticed their unusual cargo.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not implying that the women deserve to be shot in the same spot that Duterte ordered, sarcastically according to him, with respect to female communist soldiers. If it were only possible, I would have perhaps suggested that their genitals be treated like any other instrument of the crime. A truck that transports illegally cut wood, for example, is ordered impounded by the DENR.
I do not mean any disrespect in talking about the women’s reproductive organ in the same breath as a truck. I definitely did not degrade them. I did not have to. They degraded themselves. I hope that they are still locked up and will remain so until they have recovered the capacity to respect themselves.