Duterte boasts of a “people-centered approach to development and governance.” Yet five years into his term, the people have only been kept in the margins — especially women and the LGBTQ+. Even in his last and longest SONA, a feminist agenda is nowhere to be found; there exists no comprehensive response to the rise of gender-based violence, no mention of the Safe Spaces Act (which only lapsed into law for his failure, if not refusal, to sign), and no proper plan out of the pandemic for the benefit of vulnerable gender minorities.

Instead, his presidency thus far, proves well unworthy of the support of feminists.


It is only apt to begin with the state of women in healthcare. While Duterte touts increased salary, morale, and benefits for uniformed personnel, our female-majority frontliners are given nothing but verbal appreciation. Never mind the calls of our country’s healthcare workers, of which 72% are women, for better pay, better working conditions, and a better pandemic response. For the Duterte administration, displays, honors, and tokens apparently stand equal to a dignified livelihood. But he owes frontliners an apology too.

Despite their continued struggle against COVID-19, healthcare workers remain at an increased risk of harassment (including sexual harassment) and discrimination due to the pandemic. Filipino nurses abroad, particularly women nurses in the United States, also bear the brunt of COVID-19 as they disproportionately comprise overseas deaths and hospitalizations. To euphemize these risks, Duterte simply masks them as inherent, and then says no more — a show of disservice and disrespect.

Of course, the persistence of the pandemic carries other gendered implications for health. The already limited access of women and LGBTQ+ people to healthcare is further intensified amid the pandemic. This, on top of aggravated constraints on food, water, information, and mobility. Mental, maternal, and sexual and reproductive healthcare are all pushed to the side, as the institutions that provide them, converse to the PNP and AFP, suffer in capacity and funding.

We hear none of this from Duterte’s farewell SONA. Nor do we see this acted upon in policy. The state of healthcare, and consequently the health of women and LGBTQ+ people, under the Duterte administration is thus characterized only by criminal, malevolent negligence.


One would think that the frequent experiences of the country with disasters warrants a bulletproof disaster response. Not Duterte. During some of the worst disasters in the Philippines, he only rode helicopters, addressed the nation after the fact, and joked about pissing in Taal or joining those in the floodwaters. And that’s when he wasn’t missing entirely. Now, he speaks nothing of the current flooding in Luzon, despite his prideful gloating of the pending Disaster Resilience Act.

This is yet another way that Duterte neglects women, who are always the most affected by disasters. Across the board, women are likelier to live in neighborhoods with poor housing, bad drainage systems, or low-lying land — making them susceptible to a horrid cycle of poverty to disaster to worsened poverty. Poor women are also moved to the receiving end of increased gender-based violence, including femicide and trafficking, after catastrophes. On top of this, emergency relief often forgets women-specific needs like menstrual products and natal healthcare. These are but a few in the long list of women-centered disaster impacts.

Duterte’s proposed Department for Disaster Resilience makes for the sole mention of disaster response in his last SONA, so you’d take it to be effective. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s likely to spur confusion, inefficiency, and even slowdown in disaster response — washing away his claims.

For as long as Duterte fails in disaster response, so too does he fail the women facing the worst of and in these crises. And with 11 months left in his term, it seems that no hope can be restored. In fact, the country’s greatest disaster at hand is precisely his strongman rule.

Sexual assault

Few Duterte speeches come without the theme of sexual harassment. His 2021 SONA was no exception. First, he made multiple remarks to the female machine operator such as “Hindi bale, ma’am, mahal pa rin kita,” which the audience would laugh at. We need to call these remarks for what they are: catcalling, harassment, and public humiliation — unbefitting of a president, though chillingly unsurprising for a self-confessed rapist.

Second, he told two stories of sexual assault without a trace of sensitivity. One was about supposed Middle Eastern tribes, while the other was about a rape-and-slay case by a drug addict. But Duterte doesn’t truly care about gender-based violence; he only shows unconvincing concern about these cases when in justification of his drug war. Beyond this, he merely jokes about, commands, and even commits sexual assault — most recently on his birthday this year. This should explain why governmental efforts to curb sexual assault are still sorely lacking.

In fact, the Duterte administration itself is leading the charge for — not against — sexual violence. As Duterte mentions Mindanao in his last SONA, he leaves out an important part of his leadership: martial law. “If you rape three women, I’ll take the blame,” he once said to military troops in Iligan City. Malacañang keeps downplaying these remarks as harmless jokes, but after five years of the same trail, we know better than to believe this.

It’s worth noting that many sexual violence cases are perpetrated by uniformed personnel, who are emboldened under the Duterte regime. Such is the truth in the case of Randy Ramos and Marawi Torda, cops accused of molesting Fabel Pineda — that is, before Pineda was killed immediately after filing charges. Many other cases aren’t reported, because it’s much more difficult to report to the same institution that trains one’s perpetrators.

Duterte ends his last SONA with this: “I have full confidence that the Filipino spirit will persevere and triumph.” That’s certain, but it will do so without him, and in spite of him. The suffering of Filipino women and gender minorities will soon come to an end, as the next electoral vote turns feminist. The new president — I pray — shall be a woman, a progressive, and, above all, not a Duterte.