Gabriela party-list, a sectoral group with two seats at the House of Representatives, caused a stir on Twitter last night over a statement made by Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan that implied that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s womanizing is not that bad.
In a report on ABS-CBN News that will by now probably be blamed on mainstream media taking things out of context, Ilagan said that the bits about Duterte — presidential candidate of PDP-Laban — having many girlfriends and cavorting with women at political rallies are a product of media hype and, anyway, are just part of who Duterte is as a person.
“I personally even say that look beyond the words, look beyond the actions. Focus on what he has done, what he can do, what he is still doing that will benefit our people,” Ilagan, who is, incidentally, running for councilor of Davao City under Duterte’s local party, said.
Besides, she said, Duterte’s marriage has been annulled, and so he is not really womanizing when he has multiple girlfriends.
In December, Gabriela Rep. Emmie de Jesus said of Duterte in an Inquirer report that “[w]omanizing and treating women as objects is an affront to women and it is not something that should be flaunted.”
This was also said in a party statement that month:
These [acts] reek of machismo, reinforces the society’s low regard of women and consequently increases women’s vulnerability to violence and abuse. This is both distasteful and unacceptable.
A GMA News Online report attributes the statement to both Gabriela representatives.
But this is now acceptable, apparently. Or at least the womanizing part is, going by Ilagan’s statement. The Gabriela representative was silent on Duterte’s kissing sprees and his justification that how he is with women is just basic biology.
And that, perhaps, is the bigger sin than this political accommodation by Ilagan, who is nominally still with Gabriela but whose statement the party-list might yet disavow as her personal opinion.
By excusing Duterte’s womanizing ways — an issue that few have really raised — and being silent about his behavior with female supporters, Ilagan has engaged in a sort of double speak that could gain her points with Duterte and his supporters in Davao City without overly undermining Gabriela’s position.
She has also, intentionally or not, minimized the objectification of women at Duterte-Cayetano rallies. (Senator Pia Cayetano has much the same thing by pretending to not notice what happens at these rallies, so it’s a common thing.)
This is not, of course, the first time that party-list groups have looked the other way for what they call tactical alliances.
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo was once on the same ticket as Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the man who had him jailed during martial law. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares of the Makabayan Bloc that Gabriela is also part of has also accepted the endorsement of Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the man that umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan helped overthrow in 2001.
In between, Makabayan has also allied itself with revolutionary figures like Senators Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and Aquilino Pimentel III, and then Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar
Perhaps Gabriela’s latest statement is only disappointing because of our naivete. We expect these party-list groups to offer better and more principled politics than the prostituted mainstream parties when there is no actual promise of that. Or, at least, no more promise than made by mainstream parties.
Party-list groups are political groups and it is silly of us to think that they are any different from the United Nationalist Alliance, the Liberal Party, or the Nacionalista Party except perhaps in size and advocacy.
If anything, this recent move by Gabriela shows how well some party-lists have moved into the mainstream of Philippine politics. Sadly, it is in a way that makes them near indistinguishable from everyone else.