Despite the firestorm created by the controversial rape remark of PDP-Laban standard-bearer and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte last April 12, the Forum on Women for Action with Rody Duterte (ForwaRD) announced that it will not abandon the Davao City mayor in the coming May 9 elections.
In a statement signed by Dina Tolentino-Fuentes, the group said it will continue to support the Mindanawon presidential candidate because of his commitment to the cause of women.
"We are not silent. And we do not condone," ForwaRD stressed.
"But in the face of the uproar and all the searing criticisms directed against presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte following the bad rape remark, we will continue to support him because he has shown that he could work with women, commit to their programs and transform his commitment into concrete actions," the group added.
Fuentes said it is only Duterte who has the track record in the promotion of women's rights and welfare.
"The proofs are without a doubt tangible and alive - Davao City and the testimonials of women individuals who have surfaced attesting to the programs and the personal assistance of the mayor in times of their crisis," the group stated.
ForwaRD is a loose movement of women organizations either formed for Duterte or already existing but have expressed their support to the Davao City mayor's candidacy all over the Philippines.
The group had launched the Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon assemblies last February 27, April 2 and April 11.
ForwaRD clarified that it is "not a movement for Rody," but instead a "movement with Rody because we believe that he could not address our issues and should never address our issues - the women's issues alone."
"To ensure that our voices are heard, we have to express our concerns ourselves and not leave the issues to Duterte, who, like other candidates, is a product of a patriarchal and macho society. In our Mindanao and Visayas assemblies, Duterte has listened to every proposal made by the women leaders and which now constitute the National Women's Agenda," the group said.
ForwaRD Women said the members are happy that Duterte has expressed his openness to the agenda.
"ForwaRD women shall not join the bandwagon. We do not and we will never condone the sexist remark, but we shall commit to work with him so that he and the others will finally understand us, our issues, and our aspirations as women struggling against discrimination, abuses and other forms of violence," it added.
Duterte has already apologized over his remark which he said was not a joke but a recollection of his feeling of anger way back in 1989.
The group said it will continue to campaign for Duterte and the national women's agenda.