MANILA - Malacañang on Friday defended President Rodrigo Duterte from criticism that his statements encourage violence and abuse against women, just as the commemoration of National Women's Month this March began.
Duterte has been feeling the heat from women’s rights groups following his recent statements against women, including his order to have female rebels shot in their vaginas.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, stressed that Duterte must be judged based on his actions and not on his words, noting that the President is known for uttering jokes that must not be taken literally.
“Let us not take the words of the President literally, but of course we should take the President’s words seriously,” Roque said in a news conference in Paniqui, Tarlac.
“There’s a distinction between his language and his policies.”
Roque noted that Duterte, as long-time Davao City mayor, had made the city “a trailblazer in upholding the rights of women.”
He added that Duterte had set up “pro-feminist policies” as local chief executive, including the establishment of a reproductive health and wellness center for women in Davao City.
He also attributed to Duterte’s war on drugs the decline in the number of rape cases in 2017 by 13.53 percent, from 9,384 in 2016 to 8,114 last year.
He said the President also gives importance to the welfare of overseas domestic helpers who are mostly women, citing the recent deployment ban to Kuwait amid numerous reports of abuses against Filipinas.
Jokes against women and other groups are staples in Duterte’s speeches, but this has not dented his popularity among Filipinos, some of whom view his colorful language as part of his personality and appeal.
The President has also criticized women in government, including Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and detained Sen. Leila de Lima.