In celebration of Women’s Month, various transport groups and construction workers nationwide joined the bill’s authors Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros and Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin in calling out and warning Filipino men who still perform acts of sexual harassment in public spaces, prohibited under the Safe Spaces Bill ratified last February.

“Gone are the days of the old macho. Maginoo is the new macho,” said Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin, principal author of the measure in the House of Representatives.

“The days of the catcallers and street sexual harassers will soon be over. Once the bill is enacted into law, anyone found committing acts of sexual harassment in public spaces, schools, workplaces, and online will be punished with hefty penalties,” he added.

As ratified last February, the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill enumerates several acts of gender-based sexual harassment in public spaces such as catcalling, slurs and unwelcome remarks, staring, stalking, flashing, and groping, among others; and seeks to punish said acts accordingly, up to P200,000 or jail time up to six years. 

The ‘golden rule’

The Akbayan solon also summed up the proposed measure into very simple and practicable rule for Pinoy men.

“Don’t do unto others what you don’t want other men to do to your spouse, parent, child, sibling, or friend. The golden rule for safe spaces is as simple as that,” explained Villarin, who is a father of two young girls.

Because the measure also covers sexual harassment in public utility vehicles (PUV), various transport groups said that they share the passengers’ desire for “hassle and harassment-free” trips.

“We don’t want our vehicles to be horror stories for passengers. Respecting your fellow passengers means respecting the drivers who are making an honest living,” said Efren De Luna, President of the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO)

For his part, Isagani Bogabel, Secretary-General of the NCR Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association (TODA) Coalition, said that he believes that the proposed law does not necessarily target or antagonize Filipino men.

“As men, we are called to be allies and partners of the Safe Spaces Law. We have to take on this crucial role so we can uphold the safety of passengers and pedestrians, wherever we are or whatever we do,” he added.

Santiago Nolla, Secretary-General of the National Union of Building and Construction Workers, gave Pinoy men a tip to help in the cause for safe spaces.

“Control yourself. A real man thinks before he acts, because every action has a consequence. If the consequence may sexually offend passersby and passengers, stop. Just don’t do it,” Nolla said.

Men as ‘proactive partners’ 

As principal author and sponsor of the measure, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros welcomed this proactive response from Filipino men in pushing for the Safe Spaces Law, ahead of its signing.

“This is a clear sign that Filipino men are open and willing partners in ensuring safe spaces for women and the LGBTQIA+ community. The old macho stereotype is so passé. It’s time to be ‘maginoo,’ the new macho,” she remarked.

“The Safe Streets and Pubic Spaces Act is not only a law for women. It is not simply a feminist measure. It is not a measure to punish men. Rather, it is a policy to prevent and hold accountable sexist deeds. 

It is a law for everybody in order for us to effect positive behavioral change and make our spaces safe for all,” she urged.