Duterte defiant despite uproar over rape remarks

Agence France-Presse

Leading Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, embroiled in an uproar for his apparent joke about the rape and murder of an Australian woman, came under fire Monday from the church and Canberra's envoy but remained defiant.

Duterte, who promises mass killings of suspected criminals if elected next month, has faced a storm of criticism since a video showed him making crude remarks about a female Australian missionary who was raped and killed during a Philippine prison riot in 1989.

The video uploaded on YouTube shows Duterte, who was mayor of the southern city of Davao where the riot broke out, telling a crowd of laughing supporters: "I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first."

The head of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, joined a chorus of people criticising Duterte.

Villegas posted the video on social media, telling the faithful: "Please watch the video and judge for yourself. I will keep my own judgement to myself."

In response to Villegas, Duterte -- who is still mayor of Davao -- issued a statement on Monday saying: "All the while I was doing my duties for humanity. And now they're castigating me for my mouth?"

Asked if the bishop might be warning people not to vote for him, a defiant Duterte said: "Correct."

Duterte warned he would not change his coarse language even though critics say it shows he is unfit for the presidency.  

"If it is not acceptable to the cultured people, let it be. If it means my defeat, so be it," he said.

Australian ambassador Amanda Gorely joined the critics, saying in a statement on Twitter: "Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialised. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere." 

Duterte, who leads in the latest opinion survey of presidential candidates in the May 9 elections, has refused to apologise for his remarks, saying he was merely relating a "narrative" of events during the 1989 riot and not making a joke.

Many Filipinos have embraced Duterte for his promise to get tough on crime. He openly boasts in his speeches of the extra-judicial killing of suspected criminals by vigilantes during his time in Davao.

The bishops of the devoutly Catholic Philippines have criticised Duterte before after he called Pope Francis a "son of a whore," for causing traffic jams during his visit last year.

He later apologised for the remark.