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#BabaeAko campaign unites women in challenging the sexist behavior of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Women march against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's sexist and mysogynist statements. #BabaeAko Lumalaban means ‘I am a woman fighting’. Photo from Pinoy Weekly

Women’s rights advocates in the Philippines have launched the #BabaeAko (I am a woman) campaign aimed at calling out the “anti-women” remarks and behavior of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The campaign recently mobilized social media support after Duterte was criticized for kissing a married woman on the lips amidst the cheers of his supporters in a public function in Seoul, South Korea on June 3, 2018.

One aspect of the campaign encouraged women to post a video message addressed to Duterte followed by a pledge of “lalaban ako” (I will fight back).

Government spokesmen have justified the “kissing scene” as a “light moment” that is “accepted in Filipino culture” while Duterte himself boasted that “we enjoyed it” and that critics “are just envious”. To his critics, however, the event exhibited in full view Duterte’s notion of women as mere objects of desire and entertainment.

Screenshot from local news coverage by Rappler of Duterte's kissing scene with a woman supporter during a public function in South Korea.

The #BabaeAko social media campaign was launched on May 20, 2018, shortly after Duterte made a statement that the next ombudsman should not be a woman. He has cursed UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, put opposition Senator Leila de Lima in jail, and ousted Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno from office, among others.

Callamard, De Lima, and Sereno are all vocal critics of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that has, according to some estimates, already killed over 20,000 people.

Duterte is notorious for giving rape jokes in his official speeches, having catcalled a female reporter in a press conference, and even having ordered troops to shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.

Below are some #BabaeAko posts on Facebook. This is by the Gabriela Women's Party representative in Congress, Arlene Brosas:

Babae ako, Arlene Brosas, kinatawan ng Gabriela Women's Party sa Konggreso. Tutol ako sa macho, pasista, pyudal, patriarkal na kultura ng administrasyong Duterte. Lalaban ako.

I am a woman, Arlene Brosas, Gabriela Women's Party representative in Congress. I am opposed to the macho, fascist, patriarchal, and feudal culture of the Duterte regime. I will fight back.

This is from a video by Judy Taguiwalo, a university professor and former cabinet member turned staunch critic of the Duterte administration:

Babae ako, Judy Taguiwalo, patriotic teacher. Akala ang taumbayan ang boss ni Duterte, yun pala sila Marcos, Gloria, Trump, at Tsina. Para sa bayang malaya at makatarungan, lalaban ako.

I am a woman, Judy Taguiwalo, a patriotic teacher. I thought Duterte serves the Filipino people. It turns out he is subservient to [late dictator of the Philippines Ferdinand] Marcos, [former president of the Philippines] Gloria [Arroyo], [US President] Trump and China. For this just and free nation, I will fight back.

The next transcript is from a video by theater artist and activist Mae Paner, better known as Juana Change:

Babae ako. Ako si Juana Change, isang makabayang artista. Sa pamamagitan ng aking sining ay patuloy kong ipaglaban ang katotohanan, katwiran, katarangan, at kalayaan sa lubos ng aking makakaya. Magtutuos tayo. Lalaban ako.

I am a woman, I am Juana Change, a patriotic artist. Through my art, I will continue to fight for truth and reason, justice and freedom, to the best of my ability. We will reckon with each other. I will fight back.

This is from a video by veteran journalist and press freedom advocate Inday Varona:

Babae ako, si Inday Espina Varona, isang lola. [I am a woman, Inday Varona, a grandmother.] I will not allow my grandchildren to grow up in a world without due process, where a President thinks of death and murder as the solution to social problems. Kaya lalaban ako. [Thus I will fight back.]

Here are some #BabaeAko posts on Twitter:

In response, officials at Malacañan Palace (the official residence of the president) threw shade at the #BabaeAko campaign, saying this was merely “politically-motivated” against the president. Duterte then vowed to resign if “enough women” protest his controversial kiss. A #BabaeAko protest was held on Philippine Independence Day, June 12, in major cities in the country.

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