MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte is “mature enough” to know when he is going overboard with his statements and jokes, Malacañang said Friday, as the chief executive drew flak for making yet another rape joke.
“The President is mature enough to know to what extent he can go and I think this is not putting it too low," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.
Roque added that the public should not “give too much weight on what the President says by way of [a] joke.”
Duterte had on Thursday said in jest that Davao City has the highest number of rape cases in the country because it has many beautiful women.
But Roque sought to downplay Duterte’s joke by saying that the kind of humor of people in the Visayas, the President's audience at the time, is different from that of people in Luzon.
“From what I have seen myself, people in the south, particularly in Visayas, they don’t really take things as seriously as people in Luzon,” Roque said.
“They are not okay with rape jokes. But let’s just say the standard of what is offensive and not offensive is more liberal in the south.”
This is not the first time that Duterte joked about rape.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, he was heavily criticized for saying that those who raped a foreign missionary in 1989 should have given him first dibs.
Duterte also joked in May last year that soldiers could rape up to three women.
Women's rights groups respond
The #BabaeAko movement condemned the President's statements and said these add "insult to the scars of rape survivors."
"Duterte sees women’s sexuality as their sole reason for existence. Thus, his order for soldiers to shoot women rebels in the vagina, so they become 'useless.' Filipino women, with their noble history of struggle and gains achieved, do not deserve Duterte," it said in a statement.
"This country does not deserve a President who willfully breaks our laws and encourages others to do the same, because his notion of power stops at coercive force."
"He sees the presidency as a license to impose ownership over all Filipinos, a license to dispose of the national patrimony as he sees fit, a license to decree who lives or dies," it said.
The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), meanwhile, said rape can happen to anyone, anywhere.
"It is not only wrong but also inaccurate to claim that rape only happens in places where there are beautiful women. Rape can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time,” CWR executive director Jojo Guan said in a statement.
"The President’s track record has confirmed that he is indeed a misogynist, macho-fascist leader. His attacks against women do not surprise us at all, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be bothered. We should always rebuke these remarks and constantly stand against misogyny and tyranny."