Manila – A leading candidate to become president of the Philippines was under fire Sunday for apparently joking about the rape of a murdered Australian missionary.
Rodrigo Duterte, who has been mayor of the southern city of Davao since 1988, made the remarks at a campaign rally, a video of which was posted on YouTube and widely shared on social networking sites.
In the video, he recalled his reaction to a riot by inmates at the Davao jail in 1989, when five missionaries were murdered by the detainee before troops stormed the facility.
One of the missionaries assaulted by the prisoners was 36-year-old Australian Jacqueline Hamil, who Duterte recalled as being beautiful.
“There was this Australian lay minister … 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 told the crowd.
Senator Grace Poe, a close contender in the presidential elections set for May 9, said Duterte’s comments were “distasteful and unacceptable, and reflects his disrespect for women.”
“No one, whoever she is and whatever her looks may be, deserves to be raped and abused,” she added. “Rape is a crime and no laughing matter. We should all be outraged at abuses against women.”
Many online commentators condemned the comments, while some expressed disappointment after throwing their support behind the 71-year-old mayor, who vowed to rid the country of crime within six months if elected.
Duterte said his remarks were not a joke, but a narrative of his “utter anger” during the time of the crime.
“Do not make me apologize for something which I did not do. It’s a matter of honour … I said it in the heat of anger,” he told local media. “I am even willing to lose the presidency.”
Duterte surged in the last public opinion survey on who Filipinos will vote for as president in the elections, overtaking Poe who was the early frontrunner in the contest.
Aside from president and vice president, Filipinos will also elect 12 senators, hundreds of congressional representatives and tens of thousands of local officials.