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Alvarez comes to Duterte’s defense; wolf whistling assailed

By Ellson A. Quismorio, AFP, and Yas D. Ocampo

Incoming House Speaker Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte found nothing offensive in connection with incoming President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s alleged statement that it’s “OK” to kill corrupt journalists.

“[There was] no declaration [like that]. Napanood ko yung clip. Mukhang wala siyang sinabing ganun (I don’t think he said anything like that),” said the returning congressman and Duterte’s chosen one for Speakership on Thursday. Alvarez said he watched the clip of Duterte’s press conference himself.

During Duterte’s press conference Tuesday night in Panacan, Davao City, the incoming chief executive commented that the reason some journalists get slain is that because they are corrupt.

However, some have condemned the way that Duterte made his statement since it allegedly “legitimizes” the killing of corrupt media practitioners.

“Ang narinig kong sinabi niya, maaaring yun yung rason pero hindi lang yun ang rason (What I heard him say is that corruption may be one of the reasons journalists are killed, but it’s not the only reason),” Alvarez said.

Asked point blank if Duterte should apologize for his statement and the ensuing outrage it caused, the incoming House speaker answered in the negative.

“Sorry? Wala naman ano. Parang statement lang (It was nothing, it was just a statement). [It’s] nothing personal. More of an observation, naging komento lang (he was merely commenting),” explained Alvarez, secretary-general of Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), who struck up a friendship with Duterte nearly 20 years ago in the House of Representatives when they were both rookie lawmakers.

Last Wednesday, Alvarez took part in the signing of a “coalition partnership” with the National Unity Party (NUP) at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.

WOLF WHISTLE

Yesterday, Duterte was accused of sexual harassment and disrespecting women after wolf whistling a female journalist on a nationally televised press conference.

Duterte, 71, interrupted a question from television reporter Mariz Umali Tuesday night about his Cabinet appointees with a light-hearted comment about her trying to get his attention, then wolf whistling and breaking into a short serenade.

Umali continued trying to ask her question as Duterte smiled and some other reporters laughed.

In an interview with her GMA network on Thursday, Umali described his remarks as “improper.”

While Umali said she would not ask for an apology and sought not to inflame the controversy, her journalist husband took to Facebook to criticize Duterte.

CATCALL

“Catcalling my wife is wrong in so many levels,” husband Raffy Tima wrote.

“Some jokes are funny and should be laughed at but disrespecting women is definitely not one of them.”

Aida Santos, president of local women’s rights groups WeDpro, said Duterte’s wolf whistling was a form of sexual harassment.

“Catcalling treats women as sex objects… some say it’s a way of being cute but it’s wrong,” Santos told AFP.

Duterte and his aides have repeatedly said such controversial comments and actions should not be taken too seriously: that he is a straight-talker and an authentic character who likes to joke and speak the language of the streets.

They also point to his pro-women policies in Davao, which he has ruled as mayor for most of the past two decades.

However, Duterte’s jokes sent messages to society, according to Elizabeth Angsioco, national chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines.

“His words and actions reinforce looking at women as second-class citizens,” she told AFP.

THANKSGIVING PARTY

Meanwhile, a thanksgiving party for Duterte, dubbed “One Love, One Nation,” will be held on June 4.

Rain or shine, over 500,000 Davaoeños and die-hard supporters from all over the country are expected to troop to the Davao Crocodile Park Saturday for the grand thanksgiving party, the event’s organizer said yesterday.

Intermittent downpours have started to usher in the rainy season but organizers of the event said these would not dampen the enthusiasm for the victory celebration for Mindanao’s first president.

“Rain or shine, tuloy tayo (we’re a go),” said event organizer Kat Dalisay.

Hotels are fully booked, so with flights leading to this city, as supporters from other parts of the country are expected to attend in full force.

“One Love, One Nation” will be staged at the 24-hectare Crocodile Park grounds from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., with the number of attendees expected to easily surpass the record 300,000 who attended Duterte’s miting de avance here last May 7.

It will also be sort of a send-off party to Duterte, the mayor here for over two decades who will now bring his advocacies against illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption from this city to the nation.

TIGHT SECURITY

Security will be tight at the event and the event organizer has coordinated with local and national security agencies, including the Presidential Security Group (PSG), according to Dalisay.

City police spokesperson Milgrace Driz said Wednesday that those who will attend the party will have to go through four layers of security checks where they will be frisked and asked to remove their shoes.

Driz advised attendees to avoid bringing backpacks and to leave children at home.

Capt. Ryan Batchar, spokesperson for the 10th Infantry Division, said that their personnel will also back up police visibility in the area, with a unit to be stationed around the grounds and another team stationed at Camp Panacan to serve as backup in case the situation calls for it.

No vendors will be allowed inside the event.

Dalisay said 630 local performers have been lined up to perform during the event, including musicians, dance groups, DJs, among others. There will be, at least, 20 Manila-based performers.

Driz said that security will not be limited in the grounds.

“We will also be beefing up security around the city,” she said.

Dalisay also urged motorists to avoid the area in anticipation of the heavy traffic along the El Rio, Buhangin, Bajada and Maa sides leading to the event.

Even media coverage to the event has been limited.

Photographers and reporters will be assigned specific areas where they could cover Duterte’s arrival and speech.

Dalisay said there will be no ambush interviews allowed during the event.

The organizer said there will be emergency exits for medical or security emergencies.