MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte, who has several times drawn criticism for sexist comments and rape jokes, on Thursday called jailed Sen. Leila de Lima “bitch”, a term that he has often publicly used to describe women.
At an anti-communist event, Duterte’s rambling speech touched on illegal drugs and he at one point brought up the death due to COVID-19 of convicted drug lord Jaybee Sebastian, who had accused De Lima of accepting payoffs when she was still justice secretary.
The President, without presenting proof, said De Lima often spent “hours” at Sebastian's “kubol.”
“She is the only bitch na napaniwala ang mundo na she’s a prisoner of conscience,” Duterte said.
(She is the only bitch who convinced the world she's a prisoner of conscience.)
“Binigyan pa ng mga award nitong mga loko-loko na Europeans. Kaya ako galit dyan. Hindi ako makipag-usap, ayoko.”
(The crazy Europeans even gave her awards. That’s why I am angry with them, I don’t want to talk.)
De Lima took to Twitter to respond to Duterte.
"We still have a severe shortage of vaccines even though we've borrowed billions of pesos, and I'm the bitch?" she said.
"Too many have died because of COVID and extra-judicial killings, and I continue to live rent free in his head?
"Incompetent people will always call you names. He's merely diverting attention away from his failures."
Several US senators and rights groups have called on the government to free De Lima, who has said the drug charges against her were politically motivated over her criticism of the killings under Dutete’s drug war, which his aides deny.
Duterte in several instances has spawned allegations of sexism over his comments on women.
Aside from De Lima, Duterte had addressed the female police and army staff at a 2019 event as “puta”, a derogatory term for a prostitute. He has also called UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard “son of a bitch” and "stupid".
In November 2020, Duterte and other government officials joked about sex and womanizing during a post-typhoon briefing in calamity-hit Camarines Sur. This prompted a reminder from the Commission on Human Rights that the objectification of women is a form of violence.
In January, Duterte said women were not fit to be president.
Marking Women's Month, Duterte on March 8 Duterte said the government can “proudly claim” that it took actions “to create an environment where women's rights are respected and their contributions to society are recognized.”
“Let us elevate women to their rightful place in society by empowering every Filipina to break not only barriers that have long hindered them from reaching their full potential, but also the backward mindset that fueled a culture of gender oppression and inequality,” the President said in a statement.