Duterte: Who am I to sever ties with US, Australia?

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

PANGASINAN - Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday blamed the media for supposedly misquoting him about the issue of the Philippines severing its ties with Australia and the US under his presidency.

Duterte said the media's leading questions made it appear that he wants to sever the Philippines' ties with the US and Australia under his presidency.

"Who am I to sever the ties? Ang kontrabida dyan is the media. Nag-imbento kayo ng tanong supposing it could result in the severance of the ties. Ganon ang media eh. Ipi-feed ka ng ganoong [tanong], anong answer mo? Sabi ko if they so desire okay lang. It was not my idea," the tough-talking mayor said prior to the final presidential debates hosted by ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin.

Duterte says he may cut US, Australia ties

The issue stemmed from Duterte's remarks about an Australian rape-slay victim in 1989, which prompted reactions from the ambassadors of Australia and the US.

Duterte drew flak after he said he should have been the first to rape Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill.

Hamill was one of several "prayer warriors" taken hostage by prisoner Federico Pugoy and other inmates inside Davao Metrodiscom in 1989.

In a campaign rally on April 12 in Quezon City, Duterte described the missionary as very beautiful and likened her to an American actress.

"T***a, sayang. Ang napasok sa isip ko, ni-rape nila. Pinagpilahan nila. Nagalit ako kasi ni-rape. Oo, isa rin yun. Napakaganda. Dapat ang mayor muna ang mauna," he said, drawing laughter from his supporters.

Duterte jokes about raped Australian woman

Duterte’s gaffe provided his rivals ammunition, while analysts said the tough-talking mayor's survey numbers might suffer in the wake of his remarks.

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

US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg later agreed with Gorely, saying in a television interview that "statements by anyone, anywhere that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder are not ones that we condone."

Asked to respond to the two envoys' statement, Duterte said the two should "shut their mouths."

"If I become president, go ahead and sever it (diplomatic ties)," he added.

Even as he denied suggesting that the Philippines should cut ties with the two industrial giants, Duterte said it is up to the government of the two nations to cut ties with the Southeast Asian nation.

"It would depend upon them. If I become the president, it would depend upon them. I will not bring the country into the mess of my statement. They can take it or leave it, but I said what I said. When you become the president, you do not drag the country into that kind of situation," he said.

Traditional allies the Philippines and the US have grown closer in recent years, as the Southeast Asian country faces aggression from rising China, which is staking its claim in the South China Sea.