Woman sues RP for gender discrimination before United Nations treaty body CEDAW


Ms. Mariquit E. Soriano files her Communication to the United Nations CEDAW Committee today, represented by Atty. H. Harry L. Roque Jr. of CenterLaw Philippines, alleging violation by the highest court of the land – the Philippine Supreme Court – of her right not to be discriminated against by reason of her gender.

The complaint stems from a labor case she had filed against her employer at the Digitel Telecommunications Philippines, Johnson Robert L. Go, the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, in connection with an alleged sexual harassment she suffered in their hands.

She complained of professional harassment from Eric J. Severino (Senior Vice President and Head of Business Division), and sexual harassment perpetrated by Johnson Robert L. Go (Senior Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Digitel).

Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, who rejected her claims as unbelievable when compared to their understanding of ‘human experience’. Her communication to the CEDAW Committee assails this Supreme Court judgment as discriminatory on account of her gender, contrary to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Ms. Soriano was employed by Digitel Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. from August 1998 until June 2000. Ms. Soriano held the position of Director of Market and Communications Department during her tenure.

From the earliest stages of her employment, Ms. Soriano achieved high performance ratings of over 90%. However, following a series of incidents comprising sexual and professional harassment Ms. Soriano handed in her resignation in June 2000.

Ms. Soriano commenced Labor and Criminal proceedings against the company and her harassers. However, her criminal charges were only brought against Johnson Robert L. Go for Acts of Lasciviousness, and then the entire complaint was dropped following Go’s death in December 2004.

In the Labor proceedings, Ms. Soriano was successful in the Court of Appeals, only to have the decision overturned by the Supreme Court in 2006.[1]

The decision of the Supreme Court provides the basis for the petition to the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)[2] Committee.

The Philippines was recently lambasted by the CEDAW Committee for its Supreme Court decision in Karen Vertido’s rape case.[3] The complaint brought by Ms. Soriano alleges similar breaches of the CEDAW Convention: discriminatory judicial treatment through the use of gender myths and stereotypes in assessing the victim’s credibility.

The Supreme Court Decision suggested that Ms. Soriano’s account of sexual molestation by Go at a company function was unbelievable due to its ‘non-conformity with human experience’, saying:

“Mariquit went on to claim that Go crept his hand under a throw pillow and “poked” her vagina several times. She justified her failure to flee by claiming that she was “hemmed in by the arm of the sofa.” But if indeed Go did such condemnable act, could she not have slapped him or stood up and/or left?

Yet still, by her claim, Mariquit danced on the same occasion with Go, albeit allegedly thru force, during which he pressed her close to him and moved his hand across her back to feel her body. Any woman in her right mind, whose vagina had earlier been “poked” several times without her consent and against her will, would, after liberating herself from the clutches of the person who offended her, raise hell. But Mariquit did not.”

This stereotypical reasoning that women should behave in a certain manner in response to sexual violence is contrary to CEDAW article 5 (a) which requires State parties to take all appropriate measures to:

“..modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;” (emphasis supplied)

The current Communication alleges related breaches of CEDAW articles 2 and 11 in conjunction with article 5 above.

Through her petition, Ms. Soriano hopes to obtain compensation from the Philippine state, should the CEDAW Committee find in her favor and recommend financial reparation for the violation of her rights (as was the case for Karen Vertido).

For further information from CenterLaw Philippines regarding this case, or for electronic copies of the communication / press statement / primer, please contact Atty. H. Harry L. Roque Jr. athroque@roquebutuyan.com or Romel R. Bagares at rbagares@roquebutuyan.com

[1] Case reference G.R. No. 166039 June 26, 2006

[2] Please see attached ‘Primer on the CEDAW Committee and its Individual Communication Procedure’

[3] Case reference CEDAW/C/46/D/18/2008, found at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/jurisprudence.htm

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9 comments on “Woman sues RP for gender discrimination before United Nations treaty body CEDAW

  1. Acel Papa says:

    Kudos Harry, for bringing this case to CEDAW. Good luck to your client and your team.

  2. Renato Pacifico says:

    IT IS ABOUT TIME !!!!! Filipinos should be made aware of DISCRIMINATION ! Discrimination in the Philippins is in-your-face. It seems no one is aware of it !!!! Here are discriminations that Filipinos seems not to care:
    1. Beauty is measured by the color of the skin.
    2. White is right;
    3. IQ is measured by the language they speak;
    4. Spanish, Wow! Bourgis
    5. English, Wow! high IQ

  3. Renato Pacifico says:

    WANTED MARKETING DIRECTOR

    Must meet the following qualifications:

    1. Must speak english;
    2. Pleasing personality;
    3. Graduate of BS Marketing;
    4. Willing to work overtime;
    5. Must be catholic
    6. Must be at least 5’5″
    7. Must be at least 25 years old

    Please submit a color foto with your application

    WOW! If this classified ads were in civilized world where the foreign-educated-ivy-school attorneys graduated THEY’D BE SUED DOWN TO THEIR LAST DIRTY UNDERWEAR

  4. Renato Pacifico says:

    Since this is the Philippines where education is just a mirage, anything can happen. Recall Iranians go to America and go back to Iran and apply their cultural and religious justice. DUH!

  5. Renato Pacifico says:

    This is a constant: FILIPINOS CANNOT LEARN !!!!! They go abroad, study in ivy-school and when they come back they are the same ‘ol Filipinos.

    Take Joey de Venicia. A CEO. A CEO signs-off on contracts yet when it came to ZTE he went straight to idiot peryodistas, who are equally clueless, and oblivious, without evidence made pagarparings and idiot peryodistas happily publish the tsismis.

  6. Renato Pacifico says:

    Another discrimination that wealthy foreign-educated ivy-school graduate don’t want to talk about are their houseslaves. House maids or Houseslaves to be appropriate don’t have the following:
    1. Don’t have sick time. Cannot be allowed to get sick.
    2. No vacation time.
    3. No breaks
    4. No lunch breaks. If ever there is just enough to finish their food.
    5. Have inferior menus than the slavemasters
    6. No TV time.
    7. Wake up early and stay late
    8. They can be awakened in the middle of the night.
    9. Slave wage.
    10. Slavemasters dog has better food than housemaids.
    11. No medical care
    12. If sick they are sent home with no pabaon. Buti pa ang mga General miyon-milyon ang pabaon. I just wonder how they are paying their houseslaves.
    13. No days off
    14. If ever they are given weekend furlough, they have to wash clothes, clean the house, cook and by the time they are to leave it is already 3:00p.m. and have to return at 5:00 to cook for the slavemasters.
    15. They are made fun of when they dress up.
    16. They can only peek what is showing on TV

    WHO ARE FIGHTING FOR THESE SLAVES?

  7. Renato Pacifico says:

    Those treating the houseslaves like shiite are the ones asking for better working environment, higher pay and more and longer breaks. Hmmmmfffff !!!!! And these people go to church. They die for their religion.

  8. Rafaelita says:

    In defense of those with house helps: Not everyone who has a house help is a slave master. When we lived in Manila, our family treated our house helps and chauffeurs like family. Actually, after 38 years in America, I still miss my yaya and still ask and look for her. No luck though.

    I have many friends and former classmates who treat their house help with respect. I, actually, have a kumadre who sent her house help to high school and then to college — at Ateneo — where her own children graduated.

    It is very true though that the Philippines still has,at this time and age, so many discriminatory practices. I believe Ms. Soriano has a right to complain and file a lawsuit against these two men and now against the country for having a Supreme Court who was complacent with a sexual harassment case. They actually ignored and disregarded Ms. Soriano’s complaint because of their belief that a 49 year old woman was too old to be sexually harassed. Have they heard of 16 to 60 year old women being raped? These sick people/sexual harassers do not consider the age of their victims when they are attacked by their demons.

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