Getting Away With Catcalling

AFTER VISITING my dog at the hospital, I had to rush to UST for a 3 p.m. meeting. I chose to board an FX going to Morayta and sat beside the driver because what could go wrong with having fewer seats to fill and decent air conditioning?

Apparently, a lot.

The driver, who introduced himself as “Jason,” decided to forcibly dig deep into my personal life, had the guts to ask my number and warn me that he’d be waiting for me along Quezon Avenue and be “more than happy” to have me as his passenger again. I could only nod and smile and by the time I got off at P. Noval, I was shaking.

This is the type of harassment that haunts me every day, even when all I want to do is get to my destination and walk the streets with nothing to worry about.

And when I was about to go to bed and I saw how Rodrigo Duterte wore his “I’m the President” look as he whistled at an innocent journalist he considered pretty, and later on called it “freedom of expression,” I was outraged.

Instead of sleeping early, I spent the last few hours of May 31 reading provocative comments on articles written about this horrific act, saying that people “can’t take a joke” and everyone was “interpreting it (Duterte’s whistling) wrong.”

But these Duterte supporters seemed to miss a very relevant detail that can’t save the President: the Women Development Code of Davao City. This city ordinance was signed in 1994 to uplift women’s rights in Duterte’s hometown.

Under Section 8 of the said ordinance, whistling was listed as a form of sexual harassment along with cursing and “calling a woman in public with words having dirty connotations or implications.”

However, Duterte seems to have forgotten that it was his own signature that gave this law a go signal, and maybe he thought that he was not, after all, in Davao City.

Ever since Digong “promoted” catcalling, his supporters appeared to have become blind followers, despite their knowledge that it is disrespectful to the people they choose to victimize.

They are encouraged by the fact that our very own president could get away with it, all because of the power he has and the support he gets.

But here’s the catch: no one should be able to get away with catcalling. No matter what these street thugs call it (compliment, nagmamagandang-loob), it’s still a form of sexual harassment, and in a different world, they’d be penalized for it because it poses the same intent as any kind of abuse: to make the victim an object of ridicule.

At the end of another Duterte-filled day, I always seem to question other people’s sense of morality. Our Philosophical Anthropology professor once told us to be firm in our beliefs when we were discussing Plato’s Apology.

Now, I question whether or not these catcallers were swayed by our president’s words, throwing the values that their family taught them—along with their decency and respect—out the window.

Tomorrow, I might be on my way to school and pass by a line of tricycle drivers—their vehicles donning Duterte campaign posters—whose eyes mimic those of predators hunting for prey.

I might glare at them and say, “O, talaga?” But I know it will not stop them from smirking and knowing deep down that they will always win.

Not while the president can get away with it. F

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