IN DEFENSE of his latest rape joke, President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday evening (early September 3 in Manila) said he has the right to freedom of expression.
Speaking before the Filipino community, Duterte lamented that he was described as "misogynist" for complimenting the beauty of a Filipino woman.
The President earlier attributed the rape cases in Davao City to the "many beautiful women" there. Davao had the highest number of rape cases, at 42, in the second quarter of the year.
The President reasoned that his critics just misunderstood his statement.
"Sabihin na naman nila, misogynist ako, woman ano. Itong mga ano, mag-sabi ka lang maraming rape sa Davao. Sabi ko eh siguro maraming magaganda sa Davao. Hindi ko naman sinabing ni-rape lahat iyan but you are almost mesmerized or tempted kasi," Duterte said in his speech.
(They would describe me again as misogynist, as against women. My critics slammed me for saying that there are many rape cases in Davao. I said, perhaps because there are many beautiful women in Davao. I did not say that they were all raped but you are almost mesmerized or tempted.)
"That's how you control yourself. That is democracy, freedom of expression," he added.
On August 31, the Gabriela Women's party denounced Duterte's "flamboyant display of misogyny," placing Filipino women at risk of rape.
Malacañang, however, came to Duterte's defense, saying that the Chief Executive's remarks should not be taken seriously.
This was not the first time Duterte joked about rape. Previously, Duterte poked fun at the 1989 rape case of Australian missionary worker Jaqueline Hamil, as well as at the possibility of Miss Universe candidate being raped for their beauty.
In a statement released Monday, September 3, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo slammed Duterte's critics for twisting the "intended meaning" of the President's recent remarks.
"The human rights critics and PRRD’s detractors are nitpicking again and making a fuss about a statement about many beautiful women being raped in Davao, making it a basis for accusing him of misogyny. They always distort the intended meaning of the President’s comment," Panelo said.
"[President Duterte] was merely priding himself to the fact that Davao, from where he is from and mayor for 23 years, abounds with beautiful women and at the same time advancing a theory that their being beautiful could be one motivating reason why the rapists sexually abuse them," he added.
To prove Duterte's utmost respect for women, Panelo noted that the Chief Executive "reveres" his late mother, Soledad.
Duterte's pro-women policies during his mayorship in Davao and his appointments of women to high government posts, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Teresita De Castro, also demonstrates that he highly respects women, Panelo emphasized.
"As Davao City mayor, [Duterte] had undertaken projects and measures protective of the rights of women and advancing their cause," he said.
"As President, he has given recognition to women of distinction by appointing them to his Cabinet and in other high offices in the government, the latest of which is putting a woman at the helm of a male dominated Supreme Court," Panelo added. (SunStar Philippines)