AFTER earning brickbats from women’s groups, foul-mouthed Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte received a stern rebuke from Vice President Leni Robredo over his latest rape joke.
The vice president said Duterte’s joke on sexual violence is no laughing matter, local media reported.
“We have to protest. We know that’s not right. There is rape because there are rapists, not because there are pretty girls,” Robredo said, as quoted by the Philippine Star.
Robredo’s response came in wake of Duterte’s controversial joke that highlighted the rise in the number of rape cases in Davao city, the president’s hometown.
Duterte suggested the spike of cases was due to the high number of beautiful women in the city.
“They said that Davao had many rape cases. For as long as there are many beautiful women, there are plenty of rape cases as well,” Duterte said in an event in Cebu over the weekend.
Robredo said the matter should be taken seriously as Duterte’s joke was akin to victim-blaming.
“This not an issue that should be treated with just a shrug. The issue should not be made fun of,” the vice president said.
Despite earlier criticisms, Duterte said his joke was misunderstood and justified his remarks as “democracy and freedom of expression.”
“I did not say rape them all. But you are almost mesmerised or tempted because that’s how you control yourself and this is democracy, freedom of expression,” Duterte said in a speech during his visit to Jerusalem, Israel.
Robredo said Duterte has gone over the limits of his freedom of speech.
“Freedom of speech always has a limit. It should not be used to disrespect anyone. It should not be used to disrespect each Filipino,” Robredo said.
Prior to Robredo’s remark, women’s groups and netizens slammed the president’s blatant “misogyny”.
“President Duterte sends yet again a very dangerous and distorted message in his latest rape remark, that a woman’s beauty is a cause of rape,” Gabriela Women’s Party said in a statement.
“President Duterte shifts blame on women, repacks rape as something to be proud of and rolls back women’s rights gains in Davao.”
“We reiterate that rape is a crime punishable under our laws, and it occurs only because of the rapist mentality being perpetrated by no less than the President. We strongly condemn this latest flamboyant display of misogyny, which places more Filipino women at risk of rape,” it said.
This is not the first time Duterte was given a rebuke for making a rape joke.
Last year, Duterte sought to reassure soldiers who might be accused of committing abuses under martial law, jokingly saying that if any of them were to rape three women, he would personally claim responsibility for it.
“If you go down, I go down. But for this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible, just do your job, I will take care of the rest,” Duterte said.
“I’ll imprison you myself,” he said, referring to any soldiers who commit violations, then he joked: “If you had raped three, I will admit it, that’s on me.”