THE women’s rights group Gabriela said Sunday it is considering filing charges against Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino and Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao over a lewd dance performance last week at the congressman’s 58th birthday party following a Liberal Party oathtaking ceremony.
“Our lawyers are seriously studying this option,” said Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, who said Tolentino, who allegedly brought the women to the party, and Agarao, could be held liable for violating the code of conduct for government officials as well as the abuse of women and minors—because there were children at the event.
“This just shows their patriarchal mindset of 4Gs—guns, goons, gold and girls,” Ilagan told The Standard.
The Liberal Party, she added, should drop Tolentino as a senatorial candidate for 2016 and cut Agarao loose as well.
“If they don’t, that means they condone these activities and the people should not vote for the Liberal Party,” Ilagan added.
Two Palace spokesmen declined to say if Tolentino would still be included in the Liberal Party’s senatorial slate.
Videos of the performance posted on Facebook showed a female dancer simulating sex acts with a male on stage and sparked outrage online. Reports said the emcee and one of the female dancers thanked Tolentino, but the MMDA chairman later denied he hired the entertainers.
On Sunday, leaders attending the 12th Gabriela National Congress in Quezon City took turns denouncing the administration party for neglecting women’s concerns while using women as entertainment.
“If the recent Liberal Party oathtaking cum stag party in Laguna is an indication of how it will conduct its campaign for the 2016 elections, then women cannot expect that issues relevant to their lives, such as worsening poverty and violence against women, will be properly discussed and addressed,’’ said Joms Salvador, secretary-general of the women’s group.
She said Gabriela is launching a campaign to guard against political candidates who use and exploit women in their campaign.
“We urge women to demand that the level of electoral campaigns be raised to discussing platforms and debating on issues that will address basic women’s problems… rather than to merely entertain and court votes. Politicians should recognize women as a potent social force rather than mere objects to be given as gifts. Trapos who exploit and demean women deserve no vote from us,” Salvador said.
Nonie Entena of Gabriela-Southern Tagalog said women workers in enclaves were being exploited as contractual laborers receiving meager wages and no benefits or job security.
“How can women expect that the exploitation of women workers will be addressed by these men who are aspiring to be elected government leaders when they themselves are exploiters of women?” she said.
Lucy Francisco of Gabriela-Panay said that even government programs such as the Conditional Cash Transfer have brought very few changes in the state of women and children despite billions of pesos spent for the program in the last five years.
Reacting to the lewd performance, Senator Grace Poe said respect for women is important, not only during political campaigns, but at all times.
“We all have our mothers, sisters, and if we see that thing, we will be sad,” said Poe, who is running for president in 2016. “We should raise the level of political activities and not use women as sex objects.”
She added that those in the government should adopt a higher standard of values because they should serve as examples to the people.
Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II said the LP is investigating the incident in Laguna. He added that while he was there to swear in the new party members, he was already at a different location when the dancers performed.