EDITORIAL - Leadership by example
(The Philippine Star) - July 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Human rights groups have welcomed the landmark law that seeks to protect people from being subjected to lewd remarks, wolf whistles, insults and other forms of sexual harassment in public places, offices, schools and cyberspace.

As in other laws, however, the success of Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act in promoting civility and respect for women will depend on the proper enforcement. There have been complaints that barangay officials refuse to help victims of domestic violence, even if mandated by law to provide assistance. Can such barangay personnel be bothered with enforcing the “Bawal-Bastos Law,” which amended the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act? Some of them might even be among the violators.

There is also the danger of abuse, and the use of the law for police extortion. RA 11313, signed on April 17, penalizes a wide range of offenses with fines ranging from P10,000 to P100,000, community service or imprisonment ranging from six days to six months. People would be vulnerable to shakedowns just to escape those penalties and avoid having a criminal record.

Finally, there is the leadership that must be set. RA 11313 provides penalties that can be deemed stiff for offenses such as catcalling. Such penalties can be hard to swallow if others are seen to get away with lewd comments. President Duterte will have to lead by example in complying with the new law. His supporters say his jokes about rape and sex are common in the environment where he grew up. The bar is set high, however, for norms of behavior expected of the national leadership. Now there are certain types of behavior banned by a new law bearing his signature. He will have to set the example in compliance.

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