Presidential front-runner in Philippines won't apologize for rape comment

Philippine mayor Rodrigo Duterte refuses to apologize for saying that he "should have been the first" to rape an Australian missionary who was assaulted and killed in a prisoner hostage situation in 1989.

REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine presidential candidate and a local mayor, holds a campaign shirt during a motorcade campaign at Cainta Rizal, east of Manila on April 12, 2016.

He's been called "Duterte Harry," after the rule-breaking Clint Eastwood character, and compared to irreverent American presidential hopeful Donald Trump, but now Philippine mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who's running for president of the archipelago nation is being called a "crazy maniac" for his remark about rape.

At a campaign rally last week, less than a month before the May 9 presidential election in the Philippines, the Davao City mayor said that he "should have been the first" to rape an Australian missionary who was assaulted and killed by prisoners in 1989. Since then, the presidential frontrunner has faced a barrage of criticism. But he refuses to apologize, telling reporters outside his home Sunday, "It was said in anger, I was not joking."

Mr. Duterte was referencing the rape and killing of 36-year-old Australian Jacqueline Hamill and four other missionaries during a hostage situation at a prison in Davao, where all 16 convicts and five of the 15 hostages died.

"What came to my mind was they raped her, they took turns raping her," Duterte, who has been mayor of Davao for 22 years, said in the local language of Tagalog at the rally last Tuesday to cheers from his supporters.

"Why did I get angry — because she was raped? Yes, that's part of the reason, but also because she was so beautiful and the mayor should have been first," Duterte said.

His comments have been condemned by politicians and the public on social media.

"You are a crazy maniac who doesn't respect women and doesn't deserve to be president," said Vice President Jejomar Binay, an opponent in the presidential election.

Former interior secretary and administration presidential candidate Mar Roxas said, "anyone who laughs at the ultimate assault on the dignity of women should not be allowed to wield power."

And Australia's Ambassador Amanda Gorely tweeted Sunday that "rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized" and "violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere."

Duterte was leading opinion polls at the end of March, according to Bloomberg. He takes credit for turning the crime-ridden, large city of Davao into one of the safest in the country and the world, according to the Philippine Star. He has promised to do the same nationwide in three to six months if he becomes president.

Despite ongoing allegations that a "death squad" under his control is responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial deaths, it is unclear whether the attention over his rape comments will knock him out of the lead, as voters so far have seemingly been unfazed by allegations of his human rights violations.

"We're the ninth safest city. How do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world's safest cities? Kill them all," Duterte said in a speech in May 2015, according to the Star.

Duterte's brazen rhetoric and populism has drawn comparisons to Republican presidential hopeful Mr. Trump, who has been criticized for comments seen as misogynistic and xenophobic. But as Time reports:

Duterte shies away from the analogy, though. "It’s one thing to be loudmouth but another to be a bigot," Duterte told TIME of Trump.

This report uses material from the Associated Press.

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