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Online campaign against verbal abuse committed by public officials launched

Advocacy group #EveryWoman launched on Thursday #BantayBastos, a campaign aimed at holding elected officials accountable for sexist or misogynist comments they make in their speeches and other public statements. 

The public is encouraged to report instances of verbally abusive speech to the #BantayBastos Facebook page through Messenger.

Once approved, an image of the official along with the sexist or misogynist quote will be posted on #BantayBastos' main page.

#EveryWoman convenor Teresita Quintos-Deles said at the launch at the University of the Philippines - Diliman campus that the page will be moderated to prevent trolls or unscrupulous comments from filling the page.

In a statement shared with the press, #EveryWoman described #BantayBantos as a campaign to say "no to abuse of women of any kind-verbal, sexual, physical, emotional-particularly among government officials" to reclaim power for women targeted by these statements.

"Women must reclaim power so we will not be systematically targeted and deleted as mere nuisances to absolute and unbridled male rule. But rather we shall be the yeast that shall redefine governance," the group wrote.

Reclaiming power for women, #EveryWoman contests, will give young men in urban poor communities — who are mostly targeted by the war on drugs — a second chance.

Women reclaiming power also meant that claims to the West Philippine Sea will be resolved through the rule of law and international justice instead of "might-makes-right" with the government "playing lapdog to the Chinese bully."

And women reclaiming power, they wrote, is needed for the Bangsamoro Basic Law to pass intact to promise an "inclusive future to all who call Mindanao home: Muslim, Christian, and lumad."

"Excessively difficult" years for women

According to Deles, it has been an "excessively difficult" two years for women who hear demeaning words and proclamations from officials almost every day.

Yet women cannot stop, she said, and must persist as these officials continue to jeopardize the future of men and women, and trample on the basic tenets of the law which condemns discrimination against women in all forms while protected by their positions.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said sexism "has been in the Philippines for a long time, but it has not been so encouraged before."

"The country is sick, it's sick to its core with sexism and misogyny that has been enabled by the person who promised change," Hontiveros said.

Violence against all

Words uttered by high officials in government, especially leaders, have an effect on the public treatment of minorities especially women, according to Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, dean of the UP College of Social Work and Community Development.

"Kahit 'yong salita lang, pag-isipan niyo ang iniyong mga sarili, kapatid, nanay, tiya, o kahit sarili niyong pagkatao, lalaki kayo, mga anak na lalaki, hindi po ba nakaka-down sa damdamin?" Estrada-Claudio said.

"Nagdadala ng ligalig ang mga salita lang mismo, and that is a form of violation of human rights, it is a form of violence," she continued.

Statements from Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Senator Leila de Lima also decried the misogynistic jokes that goes on "behind closed doors" and the double standards for women in positions of power.

"What would be applauded as decisiveness and a strong will in a man, is seen as being un-consultative and arrogant in the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Country," Sereno said.

In a perfect world, De Lima said, #BantayBastos would not be needed as leaders would have respect for human rights.

"But ours is not a perfect world, and these are especially trying times. And we must enforce consequences and accountability in creative ways, if we are to preserve our hope for a better future with better leaders," she said.

Fight back

Estrada-Claudio said groups will have a "zero tolerance policy" towards demeaning statements, while Deles said they will announce such offenses monthly based on reports filed to #BantayBastos.

"These are men with the resources to stop us at any turn. These are our supposed leaders, hurting women from the safety of their positions, and no one will stop them, if not us," Deles said.

Hontiveros meanwhile continues to push for Senate Bill 1326 or the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017.

It seeks to criminalize stalking, cat-calling, groping, verbal harassment including use of homophobic or transphobic slurs, and penalize other gender-based forms of street and public spaces harassment. — AT, GMA News