DAVAO CITY –  Rights advocates called it a double standard when local officials slammed a Manila-based comedian for joking in public that Davaoenas were “hipon (shrimps).”

When comedian Ramon Bautista hosted a weekend event during the Kadayawan Festival and called Davao women “hipon” or shrimp (a slang for a beautiful body but with an ugly face), city officials led by Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his sister former mayor Sara drove the comedian to issue a public apology after the show.

On Tuesday, the city council passed a resolution declaring the comedian persona non-grata saying that Bautista’s acts, that included an Instagram photo of him with three women to whom he described as “women of the times,” constitute “sexual harassment” as defined by the Women Development Code of Davao City.

Former Davao-based journalist and now Philippine researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch Carlos Conde said the city has set a double-standard.

“Don’t get me wrong. If the women of Davao City feel violated by Ramon Bautista’s tasteless hipon joke, they should raise hell. It’s a different matter if the Dutertes are the ones complaining, sounding like the rights-respecting officials that they’re definitely not,” Conde said in his Facebook account.

Conde linked a news item from Rural-Urban News that quoted Mayor Rodrigo Duterte approved of women wearing two-piece underwear during the Kadayawan rave party as “freedom of expression.”

He went on and criticized the Duterte’s silence on the issue of Davao City Police Director Vicente Danao slapping his wife.

“If Davao’s leaders are really concerned about women’s rights, they should have their police chief investigated for alleged violence vs. wife,” he said.

Doctor Jean Lindo from Gabriela Women Network also shared the same concern of double standard.

“This becomes ticklish for me because collectively Davaoeños have not lifted a finger on their leader saying ‘p—ina’ even in events dominated by women in the audience,” she said.

Bautista, a comedian known for characterizing a guy who never gets a girlfriend, posted on his Twitter account his apology and his respect for the council’s decision.

Hours after the councils’ decision, Mayor Duterte reportedly said that he still welcomes Bautista back to the city since the actor has apologized for his joke.

“He has asked for forgiveness. It’s okay now. What else do you want from him? He is always welcome here. He was man enough to admit it,” the mayor said.

Lindo added that though she respected the council’s decision, she would rather have a resolution condemning sexist actions pushed by a collective understanding rather than being coerced.

“I would love to see the day that the principle applied (by officials) is a rule of law, rather than rule by law,” she said.

Many netizens posted approval of the Dutertes’ action on the Davao City Government Facebook account, except for a couple of comments that showed a different opinion.

“So comedians are not allowed to say something about the audience but ordinary people can talk about others? He is simply hired because of the way he makes jokes… and the audience didn’t mind until it was raised by our mayor…. Let’s all move on. dili lang si Ramon Bautista ang naka ingon og hipon. (It’s not Bautista who used the slang hipon)..”  a comment by Danielle Ancheta San Pedro said.

Another netizen, John Cornflakes advised Davao people not to be irked by Bautista’s joke.

“Demokrasya tayo, hayaan na lang natin. Di matitinag ang Davao City dahil lang sa isang comment. Di tayo ganon ka babaw. (We’re a democracy. Just let it be. Davao City shouldn’t be shaken by one comment. We’re not that shallow), he posted.

Writer and former Mutya ng Dabaw Joan Soco thought Bautista’s public apology was enough for her. But she said the council’s position has elicited reactions from netizens that showed their lack of understanding of the public’s outrage.

“They actually don’t understand why there was an outrage about the joke from RB. It becomes a contextual problem because in my observation, they don’t know that they are being harassed or being taken advantage of,” she told Davao Today.

Lawyer Rex Velesrubio said celebrities visiting cities and making jokes that gone awry was nothing new.

“This is certainly not the first time a joke had gone awry, like in the case of Candy Pangilinan’s “Igorot” comment flax in Baguio City,” he said.

Velesrubio added that the ban on Bautista should be seen not as a punishment.

“This declaration as persona non grata is not just a punishment to him but a larger lesson, reminder and warning to all that Davao city officials are not tolerating any form of violation or wanton disregard of its city ordinances that might threaten the peace of its diverse community,” he said.

Jeanette Ampog, executive director of the women and children support center Talikala, said education is key to make the public understand gender sensitivity, as sexism and sexist language are prevalent in the Philippine society.

“We need to strengthen the implementation of the Women Development code and Magna Carta of Women which prohibited the use of sexist language in describing women. This should be applied to all and not only with celebrities,” Ampog said.

Dr. Lindo added that the challenge now is to have Davao’s diverse groups come together on this issue.

“It’s time that artists, politicians, citizens fight sexism together in all arenas. In social media, in the academe, in the pulpit, in the halls of congress and city hall, in the bedrooms, and in the arena of debate and discourse,” she said.(davaotoday.com)

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