The usual tactics: clickbait titles and twisted statements
If one crosschecked links to alleged sex videos of both Senator de Lima and Aika Robredo, it leads to random pornographic videos whose titles have been changed to include the names of the targeted individuals. The use of clickbait titles seems like standard practice for videos containing disinformation. Its spread could have been mitigated if social media platforms and streaming services take a more proactive stance in verifying the contents of the videos and if these match the title.
Despite the official statement denying the existence of a sex video featuring Aika Robredo, several social media accounts insist that Robredo admitted to the existence of a sex video and referenced her tweet in 2016. In 2016, Robredo tweeted “It was me in the video” as part of the #everywoman social media campaign, which condemned plans to screen the alleged sex videos of Senator de Lima during the investigations.
The experiences of Senator Leila de Lima and Aika Robredo demonstrate the use of sex scandal as a political tool. Unlike its traditional function of exposing behavior that goes against norms, sex scandals in the political arena can be used to target specific individuals to achieve underhanded goals. In the case of Senator de Lima, the sex scandal was brought up under the pretext of establishing supposed links with illegal drug trade. Instead of proving her involvement in illegal drugs, the sex scandal tarnished her reputation and shamed her. In the case of Aika Robredo, the sex scandal was used to distract the public from the important issues of the campaign, such as that the leading presidential and vice-presidential candidates chose not to appear in public debates. Furthermore, the deliberate attempt to focus on a specific body part contributes to the continued objectification of women.
When sex scandals involving political personalities are founded on disinformation, they are no different from gossip and mudslinging. These practices divert the public’s attention and steer it away from issues of the moment. More insidiously, they exploit a reprehensible mindset that considers it all right to shame women “to keep them in place,” subservient to men. Indeed, this tactic has been deployed by actors supportive of the so-called “machismo populism” of the current administration.
Sex and Philippine society
The crucifixion of Senator de Lima is made possible by embedded values and beliefs in society that prejudice women. The Filipino public remains tolerant and forgiving of men involved in sexual affairs. This extends to our choice of leaders, having elected two Presidents (Estrada and Duterte) who have openly admitted their extramarital affairs. Furthermore, the public treats lightly the obnoxious treatment of women – downplaying it as playfulness, natural male behavior (boys will be boys), or locker room talk.
Indeed, this was on full display during a campaign sortie in 2016. Duterte narrated a rape and murder incident involving an Australian missionary during his term as Davao City mayor. As the sitting mayor, Duterte inspected the dead body. He said, the Australian missionary looked like a beautiful Hollywood celebrity and the criminals had taken turns raping the victim. Duterte stated that the rape incident angered him but also quipped that the mayor (referring to himself) should have been first in line. This drew laughter and cheers from the crowd – disturbing behavior that good society cannot and must not tolerate.
Microaggressions against women committed by government and its officials reinforce public prejudice against women and their sexuality. It is the responsibility of government and its officials to nurture a just and kind society. The public has every right to be outraged and demand better from its leaders.
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