|Intl. Notebook||Nov 13 2021|
When is a watershed not a watershed? When the water runs backward.
Above is a cover of National Star Chronicle from today in 1967 that references an event from our old HQ the Philippines. At that time the country, which has always had a problem with regressive males who view women as property, was going through a particularly bad stretch of gang rapes. In June of 1967, four men targeted, abducted, and, over the course of more than a day, raped a popular Filipina actress named Magdalena de la Riva. They freed her afterward, probably feeling safe from repercussions. Among the reasons were: they all came from influential families, men all over the country were getting away with similar crimes, and de la Riva probably would have to sacrifice her social standing and career to come forward.
But the quartet—Jaime Gómez José, Basilio Pineda, Edgardo Payumo Aquino, and Rogelio Sevilla Cañal—underestimated de la Riva's courage, and they also misread the mood of the Philippine public. De la Riva did indeed step forward, and the people were overwhelmingly behind her. The four men, as well as three accomplices who helped plan the abduction, were all arrested. After a sensational trial, convictions for all involved, and a few years of legal wrangling, three of the men who committed the actual rape were executed, with the fourth escaping his fate by dying of a drug overdose in prison. The proceedings were broadcast on Philippine national radio in May of 1972.
At the time the case was considered a watershed for women's rights in the Philippines, a sign of progress on the problem. The quotes in National Star Chronicle offer insight into the prevailing sentiment. One police official said, “These young hoodlums will think twice before carrying on the way they've been. The public is so enraged now, any would-be rapist knows he stands a chance of being torn limb from limb if he's caught.” But the problem persists all these years later, even despite a ramping up of penalties for the crime.
Recent backward movement on the issue is surely due to the fact that some influential people aren't interested in improving the situation. In 2016, then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte commented about the infamous 1989 rape of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, taken hostage by inmates at Davao Prison, “I was mad she was raped, but she was so beautiful. I thought the mayor should have been first.” Duterte was mayor in 1989, so he was talking about himself. He went on to win the 2016 presidential election, despite his comments. In 2017 he said he would congratulate anyone who raped a Miss Universe, and in 2018 he said Davao City had the highest number of rape cases in the country because there were so many beautiful women there. Needless to say, watersheds are not always what they're cracked up to be—especially in the Philippines.
PhilippinesDavao CityNational Star ChronicleMaggie de la RivaMagdalena de la RivaJaime Gómez JoséBasilio PinedaEdgardo Payumo AquinoRogelio Sevilla CañalNational Star Chronicletrialtabloid