Inextricable Links: Duterte Populism, Misogyny, Women and Gender Equality

Posted on April 27, 2019

By Marj Ibanez

April 27, Quezon City –– Millennials, gender advocates, feminist figures, and civil society stakeholders had an engaging conversation on the manifestations of populism and its impact on gender equality during the second installment of INCITEGov’s Kwentong Kabaro series.

Insights on how Duterte’s populism has affected the view on women in the Philippines and how the civil society is responding to this phenomenon highlighted the pressing need to push back against misogyny and inequality. “With such a robust civil society, it is a huge question as to why we seem to have accepted a leader who contradicts many of the values we have stood for,” INCITEGov Chairperson Teresita Quintos Deles said

Deles, the event’s main speaker, explained that populism refers to a set of “political ideas and activities” that “strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.”

Deles then argued that, as a populist leader, Duterte’s “outsider” and strongman image appealed favorably to the masses and created a polarized society. The president rode on the drug crisis to justify many of his actions whereas the proliferation of fake news continues to push for Duterte’s narrative and shut down dissent.

Pointing out the irony of the current situation, Deles noted that “there is very blatant shaming and insulting of women that is going on” in the country despite its “outstanding record on gender equality and being the number one in Asia in terms of its indicators.” 

Deles added that populism and misogyny reinforce each other. “We’re not saying that misogyny is necessarily a part of populism, but it is there consistently. Misogyny helps to drive the populist practice,” she explained.

The discussion dwelt on the impact of Duterte’s populism to women in terms of his policies and performance. Deles maintained that it is the women who have borne the brunt of many of Duterte’s policies. The war on drugs, for instance, has left women “to pick up the pieces of their families’ broken lives.” 

“Women are the supremely unrecognized aspect of the drug war and EJK,” Deles said.

In terms of Duterte’s ‘performance,’ his continuous trivialization of rape and violence against women, normalization of sexual harassment, cursing of mothers, and persecution of women in senior public positions violate women’s rights and dignity.

Deles also provided recommendations to get out of what she says is “a very bad place that we are in” in regard to gender equality issues. She said people must go back to the basics in giving space for a “renewed or reinvented base organizing” that includes everyone: millennials and perennials.  She also proposed specific measures such as the creation of an effective Bantay Bastos program. Lastly, she encouraged everyone to take part in women’s electoral and political projects.

Midway the forum, the participants exchanged opinions on Duterte’s appeal to the people. Some of them even acknowledged the fact even the women support him in many ways. One even said, “Siya [Duterte] ang model nila [Duterte is their model].” 

The women in attendance expressed the need for civil society to respond more adequately to the situation. Furthermore, they also agreed that women must not only organize to resist but also to think politically. To do so, there should be a larger representation of the women sector in politics. Lastly, they also hoped for a more creative intergenerational engagement between “millennials” and “millenniors.

INCITEGov, a part of the Asian democracy research network, convened the forum as the second instalment of its Kwentong Kabaro series and as a sequel to the National Consultation on Populism held in September last year. This also served as the debut of a research study commissioned by a multilateral agency to look into the ascendance of populist leaders across the globe.

Written by Michael John Mago