Cebu City Council declares catcalling, leering illegal

Jerra Mae J. Librea

IT’S now illegal to publicly catcall, whistle, leer and intrusively gaze at someone from the opposite sex in Cebu City.

This after the City Council enacted an ordinance penalizing those who commit “gender-based sexual harassment” within Cebu City’s public streets and spaces.

Among the acts cited as violations of the ordinance are catcalling, wolf-whistling, leering and intrusive gazing, taunting, cursing, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance, relentless request for personal details such as name, contact, and social media details or destination, statement of sexual comments or gestures and suggestions, use of words, gestures, or actions that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation, identity and expression, persistent telling of sexual jokes, names, comments and demands, verbal or physical threats on one’s sense of personal space and physical safety, public masturbation, flashing of private parts, groping and stalking.

The ordinance, entitled “The Safe Streets and Public Spaces Ordinance of Cebu City,” was authored by Councilors Dave Tumulak and Alvin Dizon.

It is based on Republic Act 11313, or the “Safe Spaces Act of 2018” which, in part, reads: “The State values the dignity of every human person, guarantees full respect for human life, recognizes the role of women in nation-building and ensures the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.”

Penalties of the ordinance are provided for in Section 11, Article 1 of RA 11313.

Violators will be meted the following penalities: a P1,000 fine, 12-hour community service and inclusion to a gender sensitivity seminar conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the first offense; six to 10 days imprisonment and a P3,000 fine for the second offense; and 11 to 30 days imprisonment and P10,000 fine for the third offense.

Persons who make offensive body gestures such as exposing their private parts with the effect to demean, harass, threaten or intimidate someone will be made to pay a a fine of P10,000, do 12-hour community service and attend a gender sensitivity seminar for the first offense.

Second offenders could face up to 11 to 30 days imprisonment and a P20,000 fine while third time offenders will be made to face one to six months imprisonment and a P20,000 fine.

For acts such as stalking, touching or pinching, a penalty of 11 to 30 days imprisonment, P30,000 fine and attendance in a gender sensitivity seminar will be imposed for the first offense; one month and one day to six months imprisonment and P50,000 fine for the second offense; and arresto mayor in its maximum period and a fine of P100,000 for the third offense.

Section 6 of the ordinance also mandates all public and private schools and universities in Cebu City to provide measures to prevent gender-based sexual harassment.

Failure of the schools to provide such measures, which include non-implementation of their duties such as preventing harassment cases from happening, will mean the school head will have to pay a fine of not less than P3,000.

But the school head will have to pay a fine of not less than P5,000 if the school fails to act on reported cases of harassment, according to the ordinance.

If the sexual harassment happens in public utility jeepneys (PUJ), the Land Transportation Office (LTO) may cancel the license of perpetrators found to have committed acts constituting sexual harrassment in PUJs, while the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) may suspend or revoke the franchise of transport operators who commit gender-based and public spaces harassment.

Committing a violation of the law shall constitute a breach in the contract of carriage by the PUJ driver.

If the offense is committed by a minor, the Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS) shall take the necessary disciplinary measures.

Both the offenders and victims will undergo intervention programs like psychological and emotional therapy to be conducted by the DSWS and City Health Office.

The DSWS and the City Legal Office which are the implementing agencies of the ordinance were tasked to prepare its implementing rules and regulations.

“We hope this ordinance will be strictly implemented so we could help guarantee a safer public space for our constituents, especially women, which is a fundamental human right,” said Dizon.

The ordinance will take effect 15 days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation. (JJL)