LEADING presidential candidate Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who runs on a hardline anti-crime platform, was condemned Sunday after a video surfaced of him joking about an Australian missionary who was raped and murdered by rioting inmates in his city in 1989.
In the video of speech delivered April 12, Duterte told supporters he got angry at a group of rapists not just because they committed the crime, but because the victim was so beautiful, “the mayor should have been first.”
“When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looked like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste… What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste,” the mayor added to laughter from the crowd.
Duterte, who boasts of the extra-judicial killings of suspects by vigilantes during his time in Davao, was the preferred candidate in the run-up to the May 9 election, according to the latest opinion survey on April 3.
His rivals, women’s groups and commentators on social media quickly denounced his remarks.
President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. said the comments show “his lack of fitness for the presidency” and his “utter lack of respect for women.”
Rival presidential candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay called Duterte’s remarks “simply revolting.”
“The rape and murder of a woman is not funny. Mister Duterte, do you not have a mother? Do you not have a daughter? Your statement is simply revolting. Nothing can justify such callous remarks,” Binay said in a statement.
“You felt sorry because you were not able to rape the Australian minister? You are a crazy maniac who doesn’t respect women and doesn’t deserve to be president,” he added.
Administration candidate Manuel Roxas II, who has trailed Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and Binay in most opinion surveys, also attacked Duterte.
“Rape is a serious problem. Anyone who laughs at the ultimate assault on the dignity of women should not be allowed to wield power,” Roxas said.
“A woman has rights and is not a plaything. This beastliness is not funny,” Roxas added.
Poe, who is just behind Duterte in the latest surveys, called his comment “distasteful and unacceptable, and reflects his disrespect for women.”
One Filipino remarked on Twitter: “I broke down after watching Duterte on Aussie rape. I can’t fathom how his followers can laugh at it.”
Women’s group Gabriela attacked Duterte’s remarks, saying rape or any other form of sexual abuse was not a joke “nor something to be trivialized in a joke, especially by someone seeking the presidency.”
In a statement, Duterte refused to apologize for his remarks and went into a lengthy narration of the two-day hostage taking in a Davao prison in 1989.
He said at the time, those remarks were made not in jest, but in anger.
“It was a bad remark. It wasn’t a bad joke. I was really angry so I said, ‘Son of a bitch, they even beat me to it...’ I had them all killed. I was the one who ordered them killed… and I was investigated by a congressional committee,” he said.
In the April 12 speech, the mayor added, he was not joking but merely recounting the events of 1989.
“Do not make me apologize for something which I did—which was called for at that moment,” Duterte said. “I can lose Gabriela and all…I don’t care. I’ve told you, I will not die if I will not become president. But certainly, as a matter of honor, I will stick to my guns. I said that in the heat of anger.”
He added: “I am sorry in general.... It is my style. It is my mouth. I said that in the heat of anger but listen to the story behind it.”
“If you don’t like the way I talk, you can go [for the candidates who speak good English]... You can vote for those who steal or those who do nothing,” Duterte said.
He also asked Binay if he had ever offered himself as a hostage as he had done.
“All you do is steal. While I was risking my life and offering myself as a hostage, you were just stealing and stealing and doing nothing,” he said.
Many Filipinos have embraced Duterte for his vulgarity-laced speeches, his boasts of sexual conquests and his promised war on crime.
Even when he cursed Pope Francis in a speech last November, his followers in the devoutly Catholic nation quickly forgave him.
Spokesmen for Duterte had no immediate comment and many of his followers brushed off the controversy.
“We won’t apologize for he has done nothing wrong, it was a clear joke for God’s sake,” one Filipina supporter said on Twitter.
In August 1989, Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, 36, and four other hostages were among those killed during a two-day standoff that ended in a shootout between government troops and prison inmates.
A gang of inmates raped Hamill and slashed her throat before troops stormed the prison in downtown Davao, killing all 15 hostage takers.
Apart from Hamill, the hostages included a nine-year-old boy and nine women from the Joyful Assemblies of God, a Protestant group, who were holding a Bible service in the prison.
Duterte’s spokesman Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexie Nograles tried to defend Duterte.
“Mayor Duterte takes crime very seriously. Whatever the crime—rape, drugs, corruption, incompetence or disloyalty to country. To Duterte, this is no laughing matter. His only regret was not being able to save that woman,” Nograles said.
Roxas’ spokesman and Liberal Party stalwart Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said joking about the rape and death of a person was a reflection of the person’s true character.
“Rape is no laughing matter. When it comes from the mouth of men who are supposed to be revered and followed by our people, joking about the rape and death of person is a reflection of their true character,” Treñas said.
“We can see in his own words how small and irrelevant he thinks...women [are]. I just hope that this is an eye-opener for all the people who still think he is the person who can bring peace and progress to our nation,” Treñas said.
A colleague of Hamill denounced Duterte’s candidacy in light of his statement.
“On behalf of my sister in Christ, missionary Jacqueline Hamill, I publicly denounce the presidential candidacy of Duterte, in the Philippines. Jacqueline was raped and had her throat slit while ministering in the jails in southern Philippines in a 1989 hostage taking. Duterte was recorded this week saying in his political rally that while he ordered the killing of the hostage takers while he was mayor, he wished he could have raped her first, since she was so beautiful,” wrote missionary Robin Haines Merrill on Facebook.
Vice presidential candidate Francis Escudero said Duterte’s comment about the rape victim should be denounced.
He noted that Duterte’s frequent use of women, regardless of their circumstance, as subject or object of his jokes during his presidential sorties is foul and offensive.
“It is a distasteful attempt to woo voters at the expense of women and by demeaning the dignity of women,” Escudero said.
Former Justice secretary and senatorial candidate Leila de Lima urged the public to take action against “Duterte’s malignancy.”
“It is never a joke. If there is still some reason left in him, Duterte should apologize to women and all rape victims for his exceptionally abhorrent statement,” De Lima said. “This display of impunity simply cannot go on.”
It was not the first time Duterte was accused of disrespecting women. The tough-talking mayor who admitted that he’s fond of women is seen kissing his female supporters.
“I was also charged with acts of lasciviousness. But you know, the woman was really very, very beautiful that if I did not touch her, I will die. I was just saving my life,” Duterte said before members of the Rotary Club in January.
The mayor eventually apologized for his acts. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, AFP
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