Women as ‘gifts’

Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino, touted as a senatorial candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, and re-electionist Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao are under fire. And rightly so.

Social media exploded with angry posts as a video of scantily dressed women performing simulated sex acts with some men on stage went viral.  No, it was not a stag party but the birthday celebration of Agarao. It came after a formal LP oath-taking event attended by the party’s standard bearer Mar Roxas. 

The emcee kept on repeating that the girls were “gifts” from Tolentino to Agarao. At the time that the girls were “performing,” Tolentino was seen near the stage apparently; he never corrected what the host was saying.

Of course, even LP and Roxas were criticized. After all, the event was a party gathering.

Tolentino denied bringing the girls even saying that he told them to wear skirts. Wait, if he did not know about the “gifts,” when did he ask them to wear skirts? Agarao of course came to the rescue of Tolentino and said that it was not the former but his friends who brought the girls. Agarao, however,  did not name the friend/s.

Agarao even said that there was no malice in having the girls perform in such a manner because he is “lalaking-lalaki” and that their culture is different.

Roxas issued a statement admonishing his party mates to not employ gimmicks that degrade women. He also said that this incident will be investigated.

Women members of LP, all known for their work for women’s empowerment,  also issued a strongly worded statement  which read, “The performance that took place at a gathering in Laguna yesterday is a gross insult to all: the women involved, the Liberal Party, and indeed, all Filipinos and Filipinas who espouse  equality. We condemn, in the strongest terms, any and all forms of exploitation of women. This has never been, and will never be consistent with the value of the Liberal Party… We know that such gimmickry will not be tolerated… and we fully support the investigation to unearth the truth behind the incident.”

The use of sexy women as “entertainers,” performing sexually charged numbers exploits, degrades, and objectifies all women. It disrespects our rights to be treated with dignity and reinforces stereotypes that for many decades, we have been trying to fight. It is outright sexist.

Women are not “gifts” that can be given to men. We are not objects. We are human beings equal to any other person in rights.

Agarao’s public statements betray his low regard for women, his disrespect for our human rights. He sees nothing wrong with “gifting” him with sexy women on his birthday as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He approves of degrading and exploiting women. Does he believe that we are lesser humans than him and other men?

Agarao is a member of the House of Representatives. He represents his district’s women and men constituents. He is supposed to look after their welfare and champion their rights. How does he do this?  Does he deserve his position as a public servant?

Tolentino, on the other hand is running for a Senate seat under the banner of LP and “tuwid na daan.” Is he worthy of our votes?

I received information that last Thursday’s event may not be the first time that Tolentino brought sexy dancing girls to a gathering. On June 23, during the 23rd Pinyasan Festival in Daet, Camarines Norte, Tolentino is said to have brought  “Sassy Girls,” another group of sexy performers to the event. The girls repeatedly thanked Tolentino on stage as they were performing their sexy numbers.

Also in attendance were Gov. Joey Salceda who was quite surprised and kept saying “Dios Mio!”;  Alma Moreno and Aubrey Miles (both sexy stars in their younger years) who, while watching the girls remarked, “Kailangan pa ba ng ganyan?”

If indeed Tolentino brought the “Sassy Girls” in Daet, it is not farfetched that he also brought “Playgirls” in Laguna. There are also reports saying that the “Playgirls” campaigned for Tolentino’s kin during the 2013 elections. It looks like this kind of disrespect to women is usual business for this Senate aspirant.  The Daet celebration was a public event, and thus, easily verifiable. If LP is serious in investigating the use of sexy women in its political gatherings, it will be good to also look into this incident.

LP is said to have a progressive party stand on women’s rights and gender equality. Having men like Tolentino and Agarao in its ranks cannot be consistent with such a stand. For how can the party put to action a progressive principle if your members are the first to break it?

Tolentino’s and Agarao’s words and actions on the Laguna controversy speak volumes. They do not deserve people’s votes. They do not deserve to be in public service. It will do LP good if it will remove Tolentino and Agarao from its list of official candidates. 

The use of sexy women as “entertainers” in political gatherings is actually not new. This has been going on for many years. Politicians’ general low regard for women and our rights has been there for the longest time as shown by how they use women for political gains.

However, times are different now. With the aid of technology and social media, politicians’ sexist gimmickry can easily become public and censure, instantaneous. Unacceptable, disgusting practices will no longer be tolerated.

Let this be a warning to politicians: women are not gifts. Stop using sexy women for your, and your audience’s entertainment.


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