MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday defended President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial remarks on women, saying he should be judged based on his deeds and not by his words and jokes.
This, after Swedish Ambassador to the Philippines Harald Fries said Duterte's rape jokes are not funny. Fries made the statement as a guest in a forum on a campaign against gender-based violence.
"We have to see the context of the President’s jokes, where these were told before local audience, which may not have the same acceptance with a foreign audience," he said in a statement.
"The good Sweden envoy should judge the President, not by his words but by his deeds," he added.
Panelo said Duterte has shown respect to women, citing the number of female appointees in his administration.
"President Duterte has shown respect and admiration to women and their abilities and competencies. He has appointed numerous women to high government positions in the Cabinet and executive offices and the Judiciary," he said in a statement.
Panelo also noted that Duterte recently signed laws for women, such as the expanded maternity leave law and the "First 1,000 Days" law and the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, "which mandates concerned government, non-government agencies and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive and sustainable strategy for the first 1,000 days of life to address the health, nutrition, and developmental problems affecting infants, young children, adolescent females, pregnant and lactating women, teenage mothers, and women of reproductive age," he said.
"We invite the attention of the Sweden Ambassador to the fact that the President signed landmark pro-women pieces of legislation," he said.
Panelo, likewise, said it is during the Duterte administration that the Philippines became the most gender equal nation in Asia.
"It is noteworthy to mention that it is under the Duterte Administration when the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018 placed the Philippines as the most gender equal nation in Asia. The Philippines received high Global Gender Gap scores in the areas of educational attainment (ranked no. 1), political empowerment (ranked no. 13), and economic participation and opportunity (ranked no. 14)," he explained.
"These findings highlight the government’s commitment to give Filipino women the recognition that they properly deserve, particularly their contributions in the home, in the workplace, in the community, and in nation-building," Panelo added.
Duterte's jokes about rape have repeatedly drawn the ire of women's and human rights groups.
The latest incident was during the graduation of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets, where the President cracked another rape joke while pardoning cadets.