TRASH-TALKING presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte warned Thursday he is prepared to cut diplomatic ties with the United States and Australia after their ambassadors criticized his joke about the jailhouse rape of a missionary.
Duterte also told the ambassadors to “shut their mouths,” as controversy continued to rage over his comments in which he said he wanted to have been the first to rape the Australian woman who was brutalized and murdered in a 1989 prison riot.
“Australian, American ambassadors, shut your mouth,” he said during an interview.
He said Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg have no business stepping into the political affairs of the country.
“Do not interfere because it’s election time,” he added.
Asked if his stance could affect the Philippines’ diplomatic relationship with the two of the countries closest allies, he said, “That’s their problem, not mine.”
“I have never interfered in their elections. If I become president, go ahead and sever [diplomatic ties],” he added.
Duterte, who while campaigning has called the Pope a “son of a bitch” and promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals, recounted at a recent rally the 1989 riot as part of his tough-on-crime pitch to voters.
“They raped all of the women... there was this Australian lay minister... when they took them out... I saw her face and I thought, ‘Son of a bitch. What a pity... they raped her, they all lined up’,” he told the crowd.
“I was mad she was raped. But she was so beautiful, I thought, the mayor should have been first.”
Duterte was at the time mayor of Davao.
The frontrunner has at times on the campaign boasted about running the death squads, claiming they killed 1,700 people, but also denied any links to them.
Duterte has similarly offered varying responses to the rape comments, with his media team releasing a statement in which he apologized. But on the campaign trail, he has repeatedly told reporters he would not say sorry.
Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely criticized his remarks this week, saying on Twitter: “Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.”
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg later agreed with her.
“Statements by anyone, anywhere that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder are not ones that we condone,” Goldberg said in an interview with CNN Philippines television.
Duterte has repeatedly expressed anger at what he regards as their intervention in domestic politics.
“It would do well with the American ambassador and the Australian ambassador to shut their mouths,” Duterte told reporters on Wednesday.
A US embassy spokesman said there was no immediate response to Duterte’s remarks about the ambassadors. An Australian embassy spokeswoman said there would be no comment.
In another warning to the country’s traditional allies, Duterte’s camp singled it was prepared to change foreign policy and start direct talks with China over a long-running territorial dispute.
President Benigno Aquino III has been improving defense ties with the United States and Australia to bolster the Philippines in its dispute with China over the South China Sea.
China claims most of the South China Sea, even up to the coasts of its neighbors like the Philippines which has accused China of “bullying” other claimants.
Aquino has refused to hold direct talks with China over the dispute, preferring multilateral discussions and filing a legal challenge with the United Nations.
However, a Duterte spokesman said in an interview with ABS-CBN television on Thursday that he would be prepared to talk directly with China.
“He is also supporting multilateral efforts to rein in China but at the same time, he is open to bilateral talks,” said Peter Laviña.
“He said, if we can talk to China [about] joint development of the resources of the South China Sea and eventually we need China’s investments and technology.”
President Aquino said he had not seen Duterte’s comments about cutting ties with the country’s allies.
“But assuming that’s what he said, what benefit will the country gain from this? America is a very big trading partner, always in the top three. Australia has been helping us even in the peace process in Mindanao and he comes from Mindanao and I am sure he would want to have lasting peace in Mindanao,” said Aquino.
Also on Thursday, a consumer group accused Duterte of being involved in smuggling in Davao.
Perfecto Tagalog of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers also said former National Food Authority administrator Lito Banayo, Davidson Bangayan alias David Tan and Paolo Duterte alias Polong were in cahoots with the mayor’s son, Paolo.
“It’s as clear as day that Davao City is a smuggler’s haven because Mayor Duterte’s son is the lord of smugglers,” Tagalog said in Filipino.
Duterte’s camp dismissed the accusation as being another form of black propaganda.
“They should have filed cases long ago. Why raise the issue now?” said Laviña.
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption chairman Dante Jimenez also accused Tagalog of acting as an attack dog for groups that want to tarnish Duterte’s image.
He said Tagalog was not a part of the VACC.
Tagalog, who claimed to be a VACC member and a former supporter of Duterte, said he based his accusations on a 2007 report made by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, copies of which were given to the media.
“Intelligence information received that a certain Glen Escandor, son of Col. Escandor and owner of Mandaya Hotel, and Paolo Duterte aka Polong, son of Mayor Duterte of Davao City are business partners in smuggling activities and are responsible in the proliferation of smuggled Sub-Urban Vehicles and high-end cars in the area,” the PASG report dated Dec. 7, 2007 signed by Rosauro Bautista, PASG team leader 2, said.
The report continued: “These activities are being undertaken without any arrest or apprehension by concerned government agencies due to the alleged power and influence of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the father of Paolo.”
Laviña said the smuggling charges were baseless, and said efforts to smear Duterte would backfire on his rivals.
“This is an affront on the intelligence of our Filipino voters. They know these are lies and blatant them with disinformation,” he added.
Duterte earlier dismissed a complaint filed by the Women Against Duterte with the Commission on Human Rights for violation of the Magna Carta of Women as “foolish” and “silly.”
“My mouth shouldn’t be an election issue. The issue should be corruption. Where is the country’s money? I may have a bad mouth. But that’s the way I am. It is up to you if you can accept me for what I am.” With AFP
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