Tuesday, October 4, 2016

#EveryWoman: Privilege Speech of Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Wazzup Pilipinas!

"Mr. President, I rise on a point of personal and collective privilege. I rise as Senate Chair of the Committee on Women, as senator, but most importantly as a woman.

Last Thursday, during the committee hearing for the budget of the Commission on Human Rights, I was jolted by news of the passing of Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Sen. Miriam was many things to many people. To those with whom she crossed swords, they would likely remember her sharp unrelenting tongue. To her family and close friends, she was a loving wife and mother. To the millennials of this country, her biting wit and pick-up lines are the stuff legends are made of. To her supporters from various generations, she was and I quote, "the best President we never had."

To me, I choose to remember her as an ally and fellow traveler in our long struggle for reproductive health. In her I saw the tenacity required to shepherd important and historic legislation into fruition, and with her -- as well as the legions of women advocates -- I saw the importance of the women's voice in pushing policy.

Because love her or hate her, one thing is certain: Miriam Defensor Santiago is a woman who made sure her voice was heard. She paved the way for women like me who believed that there was a glass ceiling that needed to be broken, an old boy's club that needed to be penetrated because this club sought to make decisions about our bodies, our health, our lives and our futures without our consent. In this club, women are either outsiders who must request to get in, objects of spectacle whose existence and agency are defined according to the men in their lives, or recipients of tokenist favors.

Buhay na buhay pa din ang Old Boy's Club sa gobyerno. This Old Boy's Club phenomenon is alive and kicking. At its most benign, it manifests itself in statements like, "of course I will yield to the beautiful senator..".

Then it can progress to catcalling and rape jokes.

Sabagay, hindi lang ito sa Pilipinas. In America, their presidential candidate just called a woman Miss Piggy.

At its worst and ugliest, this Old Boy's Club in the Philippines seeks to shame a woman senator into silence by threatening the release of a video purported to capture her in a sexual act.

Now, Justice Secretary says, we are not going to present anything about the sex video. We are not in possession of any video. Mr. President, we have yet to know from the House of Reps. If they indeed will cease and desist from this threatened assault on a fellow legislator, the victory will be of the netizens, women writers, women representatives, women senators who said: Enough!

Whether you think the video is fake or not is of no moment. What you think of the drug-related allegations leveled against her is of no moment. Isang usapin lang ang inilalatag ko sa inyong harap ngayon: will we allow the House of Representatives to show the sex video allegedly showing Senator Leila de Lima?

In the first place, the release of the video would be illegal. It is in violation of Republic Act 9995, or the Anti-Photo or Video Voyeurism Act of 2009, which requires the consent of the person in the video before its release or distribution. The House Speakership and the Committee on Justice will be party to the commission of a crime under RA 9995. It is, for all intents and purposes, a sex crime. Do we allow our colleagues in the House to be party to a sex crime? Do we allow a fellow senator to be the victim of a sex crime?

But, Mr. President, the legality or illegality of it is not the core issue that I want to get to: it is the systemic and structural machismo that pervades our political culture. The double standards that are so ingrained in our life that they become invisible tools of oppression.

Sa paggiit ng opinyon: Pag lalaki, assertive and decisive. Sinasabi ng lipunan, take a bow. Pag babae, hysterical and shrill. Sinasabi ng lipunan, take a break.

Sa pag-abante ng career: pag lalaki, go-getter. Pag babae, bad mother.

Kaya naman: Pag ang lalaki may sex video, macho, matinik. Pag babae, malaswa, malandi.

Mr. President, we could still be about to cross the rubicon. If we stand by in silence while our colleagues in the House perpetrate this indignity against a fellow senator, we have chosen vulgarity over civility, misogyny over basic respect and decency.

We are telling our daughters that they can be shamed for their sexuality, in ways that that their brothers or husbands will never be. We are telling our little girls that their sexual choices are fair game and that their bodies can be policed.

Sino ang susunod? Sino ang susunod na gagawan ng pekeng sex video? Sino ang susunod na hihiyain sa madla? Ako? Si Senator Nancy, si Senator Grace, si Senator Cynthia o si Senator Loren? O ang babaeng iniwan ang nambubugbog na partner at bilang ganti ay inupload ang sex video nila? Kasi pwede na. Sabi ng kongreso, pwede.

Mr. President, Sen. Leila has her political battles and many of you might disagree with her positions. So be it. But on the singular issue of the sex video, the battle is bigger than Leila. It is about respect and decency between institutions. It is about chipping away at the structural misogyny that pervades our culture. Most of all, it is about raising little girls who believe that they can define themselves with no fear of shame, and who believe that their bodies and their lives are theirs and theirs alone.

This is not just about Sen. Leila. This is about every woman.

Thank you, Mr. President."

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