Presidential candidate slammed for rape joke

A recent poll showed Mr Duterte has taken the lead in the run-up to the May 9 presidential election.
A recent poll showed Mr Duterte has taken the lead in the run-up to the May 9 presidential election.

MANILA • Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to wage war on crime, was condemned yesterday after a video surfaced of him joking about a murdered Australian rape victim.

Mr Duterte, who promises mass killings of suspected criminals if elected next month, appears in a video uploaded on YouTube.

The female Australian missionary, who was ministering at a prison in Davao in the southern Philippines, was raped and killed during a riot by inmates in 1989. Mr Duterte was city mayor at the time.

"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. I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first," he is shown telling a crowd of laughing supporters at a campaign rally.

Mr Duterte, who boasts about extrajudicial killings of suspects by vigilantes during his time in Davao, is the preferred candidate in the run-up to the May 9 election, based on an April 3 opinion survey.

His rivals, women's groups and commentators on social media quickly denounced his remarks.

President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Herminio Coloma said the comments show "his lack of fitness for the presidency" and his "utter lack of respect for women".

Under the Constitution, Mr Aquino cannot seek a second term. He is supporting another candidate, former interior secretary Mar Roxas, who trails Mr Duterte in opinion surveys.

One rival candidate, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, called Mr Duterte's remarks "simply revolting". "You are a crazy maniac who doesn't respect women and doesn't deserve to be president," he told Mr Duterte in a statement.

Another candidate, Senator Grace Poe, said his comment was "distasteful and unacceptable, and reflects his disrespect for women".

One Filipino said 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 denounced Mr Duterte's remarks, saying any form of sexual abuse was not a joke or "something to be trivialised in a joke", especially by someone seeking the presidency.

Many Filipinos have embraced Mr Duterte for his vulgarity-laced speeches, his boasts of sexual conquests and his promised war on crime. Even when he called Pope Francis a "son of a whore" during a speech in November, his followers in the devoutly Catholic nation quickly forgave him.

Spokesmen for Mr Duterte had no immediate comment when approached by Agence France-Presse.

Many of his followers brushed off the controversy.

"We won't apologise for he has done nothing wrong - it was a clear joke, for God's sake," one female supporter said on Twitter.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'Presidential candidate slammed for rape joke'. Print Edition | Subscribe