EDITORIAL - It’s good, but how enforceable is it?

The Freeman
EDITORIAL - It�s good, but how enforceable is it?

The Cebu City Council recently passed an ordinance called “Safe Streets and Public Spaces Ordinance of Cebu City”. In short it supports Republic Act 11313, also known as the “Safe Spaces Act.”

The ultimate aim of the city ordinance is to address gender-biased harassment in public areas, streets, privately-owned places, public utility vehicles, and make it punishable by law.

We laud the aim of councilors David Tumulak, Lea Japson, and Alvin Dizon in crafting this ordinance. Considering how much the women of today have to deal with, harassment in public places should be the least of their concerns, preferably even not part of their concerns at all.

However, the republic act comes with generalizations that the ordinance should define or refine to avoid confusion.

For example, as reported in this paper wolf-whistles should now be prohibited.

So what constitutes a wolf-whistle? The wolf-whistle as we know it has a distinctive rising pitch and falling pitch. Is only this whistle considered offensive? What if a monotone whistle or any type of whistle was issued? Is this considered offensive as well?

In the same article “leering and intrusive” gazes are now prohibited.

How do you define a leering and intrusive gaze? Is it when the offender eyes the offended up and down from head to toe? A narrowing of the eyes? A long and lingering examination that lasts for more than a few seconds? Does it come with a lick of the lips?


This isn’t nitpicking, it’s helping make the ordinance more enforceable. Those who find themselves being accused of sexual harassment can easily say they were just whistling a tune, or not using the wolf-whistle we are all too familiar with.

They can also reason they were looking intently at the face of someone, hence appearing “leering and intrusive,” because they thought she was an old acquaintance and trying to confirm her identity. They can come up with a ton of reasons that can help them get away.

It would advisable for the council to refine some points or reword some sections in their ordinance so that those who offend cannot make easily valid excuses or poke holes in the accusations against them.

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