Republic Act 11313 was approved by President Duterte last April 17, to take effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in any two newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines. Yesterday, its implementing rules and regulations were approved after public consultations in Cebu, Baguio, Masbate, Metro Manila and other places.
What is RA 11313? It’s official title appears harmless--the Safe Spaces Act—but its other, more commonly-used name is more ominous: The Bawal Bastos Law and it proposes to kill good old seduction.
The law makes it a crime to cat-call, wolf-whistle or extend unwanted invitations. It also prohibits uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance, relentless requests for personal details, sexual comments and gestures, persistent telling of sexual jokes and any statement that invades a person’s personal space or threatens the person’s sense of personal safety.
If it is any consolation to him (the Lothario), the law applies with as much force to women and members of the LGBT+ community as it does to men. Unlike in Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, there is no discrimination against harassed men.
The penalties vary. First offenders of cat-calling, sexual jokes, unwanted invitations and uninvited comments are punished with a fine of P1,000 and community service for 12 hours. A second offense carries imprisonment of six to 10 days or a fine of P3,000. A repeat offender faces imprisonment for between 11 to 30 days and a fine of P10,000.
Making offensive body gestures such as flashing, groping, masturbation and similar lewd actions carries a stiffer penalty of P10,000 fine and 12 hours community services, imprisonment for 11 to 30 days or a P15,000 fine and imprisonment for one month and one day to six months and a fine of P20,000 for the first, second, and third offenses, respectively.
I have no issue with punishing sexual gestures, flashing, groping, masturbation and other lewd acts. In fact, I think that the penalties are too light.
But why punish the act of repeatedly inviting a girl, for example, or asking for her address or telephone number? We used to do that when we were younger and it did not make us maniacs nor leave the girls feeling demeaned. In fact, I would like to think that they were flattered by the uninvited attention.
We should reward, not punish, persistence.
Yesterday, the lady and I walked along Colon St. for the first time since the sidewalk was cleared of vendors. We used to beat the same path when we were in college.
I must confess that I missed the familiar smell of barbecue in Colon. Without the barbecue stands, the street looked bare.
But between a pedestrian-friendly Colon and the one I used to know, I will take the former anytime. Besides, the barbecue stalls have all but disappeared, years after graduation, replaced by the ubiquitous stalls that sold everything but pork on a stick.
Let’s keep Colon free for all, please.