Despite controversies like the recent rape joke, supporters of presidential candidate Davao City May

Despite controversies like the recent rape joke, supporters of presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte continue to volunteer in their ways like offering free printing of t-shirts for Duterte. (Photo: Madonna T. Virola.)

Likened to the brash style of Donald Trump, Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is known for his womanizing ways, and his ruthless approach to fighting crime.

Duterte is no stranger to controversy, but this week he has caused global outrage over a joke he made about a murdered rape victim.

Madonna Virola reports on the backlash from the city of Calapan.

Gabriela, a women’s rights advocacy group has quickly demanded an apology from presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte.

In a video uploaded to YouTube, Duterte is seen making a remark about an Australian missionary, Jacqueline Hamill, who was murdered and raped during a prison riot in Davao in 1989. Duterte was mayor at the time.

Duterte publicly commented about the incident, saying, “They raped all the women. There was this Australian woman. I saw her face and thought, what a pity. She was beautiful. The mayor should have been first.”

The remark has sparked outrage, and the video has gone viral.

Gabriela spokesperson, Gert Ranjo Libang, says Duterte took it one step too far this time. That rape is not something that should be trivialized.

“He still has to apologize because the issue of rape became a joke with what he said. It’s not good.”

The pressure has been on the presidential candidate to respond.

Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Amanda Gorely even took to Twitter to voice her concerns, saying that rape is no laughing matter. And that “violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.”

After days of the heat, Duterte finally caved, offering a weak half-apology for his outrageous comments.

“I’m sorry in general, to the Filipino people, it’s my style, it’s my mouth. I said it in the heat of my anger but listen to the story behind. It was not a joke, I said it in a narrative, I was not smiling, I was just talking plain sense.” 

Duterte is nicknamed ‘Duterte Harry’ after the Clint Eastwood film character, Dirty Harry – a figure will little regard for the rules

He has built a political name with an iron-fist approach to fighting crime in the insurgency-plagued south, where he has been mayor for 22 years, as well as stints as vice mayor and as congressional representative.

His methods have been effective, but brutal and extrajudicial.

During his presidential campaign, Duterte has vowed to use his approach to rid the country of corruption and crime in six months.

Despite his brash ways, Duterte is currently leading in the polls in the lead up to the May 9 election.

But the latest controversy might see his numbers take a hit, says Warlito Cajandig, a bishop in Oriental Mindoro.

“His style, which is his personal style, is unacceptable to the public, especially that he is aspiring as president of the republic. We also have conventions and standards.”

But some Duterte supporters remain unmoved.

Last November when he called Pope Francis’ a son ‘a whore’ in a speech, his followers in the devoutly Catholic nation forgave him.

Jumyr owns a printing press that offers free t-shirt printing of Duterte’s face, he commented,

“People attack him even with old issues because he is the leading candidate. I continue to support him. We’ve long been under a democratic rule. The country needs someone with a strong heart, courageous, to reduce criminality. Only the poor ones get punished. The rich go to house arrest, hospital arrest. Like me, I only own a printing shop. With him, I hope for fair justice in the country.”

Even Duterte’s daughter, Sara, who revealed she is also a rape victim, said she was not offended by her father’s remarks.

Others have pointed to Duterte’s track record on women’s rights in Davao, where he has promoted contraception, set up a domestic violence response desk, and a unit dedicated to the rights of women.

Under Duterte, the Women Development Code was also established to protect women against discrimination. It was a first for the Philippines.

But for women’s rights group like Gabriela, a president should be above making jokes about rape.


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