“The reason why I wanted to pursue this case is because I wanted to take a stand for all the silent victims of rape, of rape jokes, of misogyny," says Liza. Photo from @lizasoberano on Instagram
Culture Spotlight

The lessons Liza Soberano wants to teach us

You can’t just bully people online and get away with it, says the 22-year old actress who filed a libel case Thursday
RHIA D. GRANA | Sep 25 2020

By now, you already know that Liza Soberano did not take that rape remark made by a netizen against her lightly. The actress yesterday filed a libel case before Deputy City Prosecutor Irene Ressureccion in Quezon City.

Soberano is clearly upset over the comment of Melisa Olaes, sales head personnel of telecommunication and cable television services provider Converge, who posted this in a Facebook thread: “Wala tayong magagawa, wala ng trabaho, kaya di bale ng masira ang image, magkapera lang. sarap ipa-rape sa mga…. ewan!”

The remark came after Liza tweeted about her slow internet connection. Her internet provider is Converge. 

In Liza’s complaint, her legal counsel Atty. Jun Lim of Lim-Yutatco-Sze law firm cited Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act. No. 10175, otherwise known as “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012” — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

In an interview over ANC’s Headstart, the actress explained that public figures and celebrities like her tend to tolerate offensive comments about them online. “If someone bashes us, we just let it go because we understand that everybody has their own opinions and that because we are public figures, we should just let people say what they want to say about us without batting an eye,” she said

But a rape joke is something the 22-year-old actress will not condone. “The reason why I wanted to pursue this case is because I wanted to take a stand for all the silent victims of rape, of rape jokes, of misogyny. And I feel like it’s about time that it ends because rape is not funny, there’s nothing funny joking about it.”

Liza also wanted to remind netizens to keep their behavior online in check. “I think since the pandemic happened and everybody is online, I’ve been seeing a lot of people showing so much hate. I want them all to learn a lesson that you can’t just bully people online and just get away with it,” she said in the interview. 


How to respond

If ever you get a rape remark, should you automatically respond to the circumstances the way Liza did?

According to gender advocate Jean Enriquez, a rape remark, even if it’s online, is not benign. “Rape remarks impact a person,” says Enriquez, who led women’s groups in filing a case back in April 2016 against then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte over his controversial statement on the rape-slay of an Australian missionary in 1989.

Enriquez, was part of the team that formulated the Anti-Trafficking Law, Anti-Rape Law of 1997, and Magna Carta of Women. “We have been gender advocates for a long time and we know that culture is affected especially by those in power. So if rape remarks are normalized by public officials, then there are many who would tend to believe that it is all right to say that,” Enriquez stresses.

Enriquez says actors—who are seen as public property—should not ignore inappropriate remarks such as that of Olaes. “Kung targetin sila ng tao, as if hindi sila nasasaktan, wala silang pakiramdam. Tao din sila. At babae si Lizahindi man siya minor,” says Enriquez.

She adds that persons who experience any form of online harassment—if they felt attacked, disrespected, bullied, or maligned—can also cite RA 11313 in their complaint. “Nasasakop nito ang sexist remarks. Merong gender-based online sexual harassment sa Article 2 na maaaring tingnan,” she mentions.

The said Article includes “acts that use information and communications technology in terrorizing and intimidating victims through physical, psychological, emotional threats, unwanted sexual misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist remarks and comments online whether publicly or through direct and private messages,” among others.

The executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific also says this should serve as a lesson to netizens. “Aral ito sa mga nasa online world para ibalik natin ang respeto sa kapwa-tao lalo na sa matagal ng nakararanas ng discrimination, at ito yung mga kababaihan, mga LGBT, PWD (persons with disabilities), at iba pang mga grupo na madaling sabihan ng mga offensive remarks dahil hindi kinikilala ang kanilang karapatan,” she says.

Liza did the right thing, Enriquez says, because this is precisely the reason why there are laws—to protect our rights.

Liza wants to remind netizens to keep their online behavior in check. Photo from @lizasoberano on Instagram

“Whether online, on the street, in the workplace, in an education institution, it’s important to uphold the rights and dignity of a person—hindi mo yuyurakan,” she explains.

Dapat walang pagyurak sa dignidad ng tao, sa kanyang karapatan, integridad sa kanyang sariling katawan. Yung comment against Liza borders on that, yung ipapa-rape siya, so definitely nagpo-pose siya ng threat sa babae,” she says.

She says that victim-blaming, “yung pagsisi sa mga naagrabyado,” any form of verbal violence and bullying in relation to one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, should likewise not be tolerated. “Kahit na ito ay verbal violence, kahit hindi pisikal, ito pa rin ay pagyurak sa karapatan. Akala ng iba, walang epekto kapag hindi nahawakan, hindi pisikal. Pero malalim din ang epekto ng emotional at psychological violence sa mga biktima nito.”

Enriquez says lack of resources is always an issue when it comes to access to justice. But this should not be the case. “It is important for people to know na pwede silang lumapit sa public prosecutors’ office at pwede din silang dumiretso sa Women and Children Protection desk ng mga PNP stations. Ang iniisip agad [ng mga victims], maghanap ng libreng pribadong abogado, when in fact, the government should be providing that.”

The gender advocate observes that human rights awareness is not commonly taught in the country, when it should be integrated in lessons beginning in primary school. “Meron tayong mga karapatan mula pagkapanganak pero marami ang napagkakaitan niyan lalo na yung mga discriminated groups of people kasama ang kababaihan at mga bata. That is why it should be actively taught and promoted,” Enriquez points out.