THE Davao Writers Guild has condemned the presence of sexual harassments and abuses within the creative community.
This developed following an alleged sexual harassment incident at the 26th Iligan National Writers’ Workshop (INWW) in May this year.
An open letter to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) from INWW fellows, panelists, writers, and "others in solidarity" stated that there was incident of an alleged sexual assault at the writers’ workshop between an older male keynote speaker/panelist and a female fellow (names withheld).
According to the open letter, the victim, who posted a note set to public on Facebook, “called and wrote” the workshop director and the Mindanao Creative Writers Group (MCWG) about the incident.
"Unfortunately, the workshop director replied with a dismissal of the survivor’s request, reducing the incident to an 'issue' between the survivor and the keynote speaker because, to quote the workshop director in the survivor’s testimony: 'it was done behind closed doors and nobody heard anyone screaming, being dragged down the stairs, or trashing about,'" the open letter reads.
The Davao Writers Guild said in a statement on August 10, 2019 that it "is in solidarity with concerned Filipino writers and artists in condemning teachers, resource speakers, workshop panelists, writers, and artists, who abuse their power and influence in order to take advantage of young artists who come under their tutelage."
"We condemn the perpetuation of rape culture in writers’ workshops and denounce institutions that mishandle complaints of sexual misconduct brought to their attention and authority," the literary guild said.
The guild also revealed in its statement that it has expelled a member of the guild who was allegedly involved in sexual harassment incidents.
"In light of the events recently brought to its attention, the Board of Trustees of the Davao Writers Guild has unanimously voted to expel one of its members from its ranks, effective immediately," the guild said, adding that this was supported by majority of the members.
Safer creative spaces
Committed to ensure that there is "a safe learning environment, free from threats of sexual harassment and predation," for young and emerging writers of Davao and Mindanao, the Davao Writers Guild will include an Anti-Sexual Harassment orientation during every run of the Davao Writers Workshop.
"In order to help young and emerging artists navigate the manifestations of sexual misconduct in spaces of mentorship and artistic gathering," the guild said.
It added that this "lecture also aims to improve our own understanding of the power dynamics surrounding sexual violence, the early manifestations of sexual predation, and the ways that the Guild, as a literary institution that trains young and emerging writers, can foster among its members and mentees a culture that prevents and rejects sexual harassment."
After creative and literary groups called on the investigation of alleged sexual harassments in creative spaces, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson lawyer Jacquelin Ann de Guia said they will be conducting an investigation on the sexual harassment incident at the INWW.
"Rape and other forms of sexual assault and harassment are grave crimes with long term consequences to the victim. Any complaint on sexual violence and violations must be seriously and thoroughly investigated at once," she said in a statement on August 9, 2019.
The human rights body has also condemned the non-action of organizers over the complaint of the INWW victim.
"Trivializing the serious grievance to a ‘private matter’ contribute to the culture of silence that perpetuate misogyny and enable impunity," she said.
De Guia added that "as primary duty-bearer, government institutions and its representatives must ensure that workshops or any activity they conduct and/or sponsor are safe spaces especially for women and other vulnerable individuals."
"If there is an allegation of sexual violence in the context of such activity, it is expected that the organizers take immediate steps to get to the bottom of the allegation and demonstrate readiness to assist the alleged aggrieved party," she said.
In the open letter, the signatories also called on the NCCA, Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), and Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) to look into the incident. They also called on the Ombudsman to investigate the "unjust and improper handling of the survivor’s complaint by the workshop organizers, who are also professors of a state university."
"The results of these investigations provide input or feed into a review of policies vis-à-vis grantees of NCCA’s programs to ensure that every workshop, training, or any other project will be a safe space for everyone," the open letter reads.