Duterte flip-flops on rape apology
Did he or didn’t he?
Despite a statement of apology released on Tuesday morning, presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte denied apologizing for his joke on the rape of an Australian missionary during the 1989 hostage-taking in a Davao jail.
“I apologize to the Filipino people for my recent remarks in a rally. There was no intention of disrespecting our women and those who have been victims of this horrible crime,” read the five-paragraph statement released by Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
But Duterte disowned the statement and denied any knowledge of it. “Don’t force the issue because I will never really apologize,” he told a cable news network.
The mayor drew widespread condemnation for treating as a joke the rape of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill. “I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first,” he said during a campaign rally last week.
He had since refused to apologize for his remarks, saying they were uttered in a burst of anger at the criminals.
The Inquirer Mindanao Bureau received a copy of Duterte’s purported apology on Tuesday morning through a Facebook message, with the mayor’s spokesperson, Peter Lavina, as reference.
When Duterte denied issuing the statement on Tuesday night, the bureau contacted the candidate’s national campaign head, Leoncio Evasco, and the mayor’s executive assistant, Bong Go, to clarify matters. Late Tuesday night, Go sent the Inquirer a text message that said, “OK na. (He has) confirmed (it).”
It turned out that while a local PDP-Laban official had talked to the mayor about the possible release of the apology statement, the official later failed to inform Duterte that the press release had in fact been issued that morning.
Duterte’s rape comment prompted religious leaders, including El Shaddai’s spiritual adviser Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr., to urge their followers “not to vote for him.”
“What kind of leader will we choose for ourselves?” Bacani said, adding that Duterte was among the presidential candidates who had already met with El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde apparently to get his nod. The other candidates were Sen. Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas.
In a separate interview, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Duterte’s mindset of resorting to extrajudicial means to solve crime in the country was disturbing. “But what is more frightening than a Duterte presidency is that many people now also share the same mentality,” he said.
Duterte rival, Senator Poe, urged women to speak out against sexual harassment and other abuses from men who continue to insult and discriminate against them.
She also expressed outrage over Duterte’s rape remarks and added that “it is saddening to see that women continue to be victims of violence and human trafficking.”
For his part, Binay said Duterte’s controversial joke “confirms” his psychological disorder. “Let his physical and mental case be submitted to the voters,” he added.
Code of conduct
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon similarly deplored Duterte’s rape remarks in her Twitter account, and vowed to propose a code of conduct for candidates and to reform election rules “to emphasize gender sensitivity and gender equality.”
Guanzon, however, admitted that foul or vile language was not a ground for canceling a candidate’s certificate of candidacy, and that it was up to the voters to decide who they want to elect to the presidency, “a tough job that requires competence, honesty and mental fitness.”
Representatives of women’s groups filed a complaint in the Commission on Human Rights Wednesday against the front-runner in the presidential race for his rape remarks. The complaint said Duterte violated a law protecting women’s rights and eliminating all forms of discrimination.
For its part, PDP-Laban, Duterte’s political party, said it could afford to lose some votes as a consequence of its standard-bearer’s joke about Hamill’s rape.
“We can afford some loss because of some unguarded moments. But I take consolation from the fact that the mayor did not commit any crime,” Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, PDP-Laban president, told reporters on Wednesday.
PDP Laban spokesperson Paola Alvarez lamented that Duterte was being “unjustly and unfairly pilloried over a misunderstood statement,” and said that the mayor committed the blunder because Tagalog was not his native language.
“There’s a very real language barrier that Visayans like (myself) and Mayor Duterte have to hurdle in order to avoid being misunderstood when speaking in Tagalog or in Filipino,” Alvarez said, adding that the mayor’s statements “had been open to different interpretations and to being taken out of context by his political opponents … especially since he has a peculiar, tough-guy way of speaking.” With reports from the Inquirer Mindanao Bureau, Gil Cabacungan, Jocelyn R. Uy, Nina Calleja, Christine Avendano, and AP