IDEVAW. Lyda Canson (right), chair emeritus of women’s group Gabriela-Southern Mindanao and Jeannette Laurel-Ampog of women advocacy group Talikala Foundation, inform media workers about the International Day for the elimination of Violence Against Women on Monday’s Kapehan sa SM in Davao City. ( photo by Medel V. Hernani)

Lyda Canson (right), chair emeritus of women’s group Gabriela-Southern Mindanao. ( file photo by Medel V. Hernani)

DAVAO CITY — Even with the passage of a landmark ordinance that promotes and advances women’s rights, the city still has long way to go to end the “macho culture”, a woman leader here said.

Gabriela Southern Mindanao Chairperson Emeritus Lyda Canson said: “Beyond criticizing (President-elect Rodrigo Duterte), I am most bothered by the reactions of those who were present at the press conference and his staff.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, May 31,  TV reporter Mariz Umali asked Duterte a question to which he replied that the reporter was always seeking his attention.

“Nagapapansin ka talaga sa akin ha (You really want my attention),” he said.

Duterte also wolf whistled, prompting laughter from the audience, most of whom are reporters.

In another press conference, Duterte said that his whistling was a freedom of expression and that it should not be presumed that it was meant for the reporter.

He also said that whistling will only be considered as a sexual harassment if “you go overboard and start to harass the woman”.

Canson said the audience’s reaction signaled  “as though the (President-elect’s) behavior was alright.”

She said some reporters saying that they are used with Duterte’s behavior and that it was just a joke “goes to show that the Davao women have a long way still to change the macho culture.”

Davao City was the first to approve City Ordinance No. 5004 or the Women’s Development Code in 1997 while Duterte was mayor. The Code highlights mainstreaming gender-sensitivity through legislation, among others. It also lists other forms of sexual harassment to include whistling and catcalling a woman in public.

“We have time and again advocated that any word or action by both women and men which demean another is not acceptable. We want to end the perception that what defines us is our beauty and our bodies,” said Canson.

“I am not directing this just to Mayor Duterte, but to all women and men who are imprisoned by long held beliefs that women’s worth are their bodies,” said Canson, who is also a recipient of the Datu Bago Awards in 2015 for her women’s rights advocacy. She was also one of the pillars of the reproductive health movement in Davao.

She said: “We want to end making fun of our bodies. We want to be respected and be defined for other attributes than our bodies.”

Meanwhile, GABRIELA and Gabriela Women’s Party challenged Duterte to advance women’s rights and welfare under his administration.

“Catcalling is improper. It is an uncalled-for act that is demeaning to women. In fact, ordinances in Quezon City and even in Davao City saw the need to address this offensive demeanor and included it as one form of sexual harassment,” the groups said.

They said that various forms of sexual harassment proliferate in the society and needs to be addressed by continuing education.

“As the highest official of the country, we hope Pres. Rodrigo Duterte will help educate the general public on the respect of women‘s rights, as reflected in the first of its kind Gender Development Code pushed by women‘s rights advocates, including GABRIELA-Davao and supported by President Duterte as Mayor in Davao City,” they added.

They also extended their hands to Duterte and said that they would cooperate with his administration “in advancing women‘s vision of good governance and development through socio-economic, political and cultural reforms.”

“While the issue of violence against women is a major concern of Gabriela, we are also pushing for other significant issues that greatly affect women‘s daily lives. Pres. Duterte has promised change and therefore we expect that he will be true to his word and institute such changes,” they said.

Duterte was also invited to a Women’s Summit in Davao City this month. The summit aims to discuss how violence against women and children must be addressed by the incoming  administration. (

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