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.
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) Committee.
The Philippines was recently lambasted by the CEDAW Committee for its Supreme Court decision in Karen Vertido’s rape case. 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. firstname.lastname@example.org or Romel R. Bagares at email@example.com
 Case reference G.R. No. 166039 June 26, 2006
 Please see attached ‘Primer on the CEDAW Committee and its Individual Communication Procedure’
 Case reference CEDAW/C/46/D/18/2008, found at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/jurisprudence.htm