President blames media for ‘trivial’ Robredo remarks
What’s all the fuss about my sexist jokes?
For the nth time, President Duterte on Wednesday chided the media for paying attention to the “triviality” of the remarks he had made about Vice President Leni Robredo’s knees, which she decried as “inappropriate” and “tasteless.”
“I do not stop being President just because I (make those kind of jokes). Do not exact a standard for me. I will do what I say and I say what I do,” a visibly irate Mr. Duterte told the Inquirer.
“So what’s the problem there? Why (make) an issue? Sexist? There goes the media again. What should I say? It’s true anyway,” he continued. “Is that the trivialities of media? It’s so trivial.”
He added: “You want to depict me as vulgar? You can have your day. It’s not my concern to impose this standard. Do not … cast aspersion on my jokes because I’m not a general. I’m a politician.”
The President, who spoke with reporters before leaving for Thailand and Malaysia for his official visits, said he often teased Robredo for wearing short skirts, which exposed her knees.
“What’s so special about the body of a woman? Or the smooth knee of a woman? It only means she’s not going to church,” he said.
Asked if his advances on the Vice President were necessary, Mr. Duterte said: “It is appropriate. As a matter of fact, it is good.”
Several young women, who were standing next to the President’s podium, applauded him, apparently unaffected by his justification of his risque comments.
At the commemoration of the third anniversary of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in Tacloban City on Tuesday, Mr. Duterte said he used to check out on the Vice President’s knees during their Cabinet meetings.
He said she must have noticed him ogling at her as she had decided to just sit across him.
“I wanted to tell her, ‘Ma’am maybe next time you just wear shorts … But after our third meeting, she was already there at the far end of the table. I lost the view during the Cabinet meeting,” he said.
A day after Mr. Duterte made the statements, Robredo said while she initially chose to ignore the President’s statements, many were “bothered and offended by it.”
“As we all rightly should. Tasteless remarks and inappropriate advances against women should have no place in our society. We should expect that most of all from our leaders,” Robredo said.
Immediately after the Tacloban event, Robredo told journalists that she was used to the President’s teasing.
But many observed that the widow of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, with whom she has three daughters, masked her discomfort onstage with a smile all the while that the President was speaking.
“When President Duterte made inappropriate remarks, I deliberately chose to ignore these. There are larger and more urgent issues we confront as a nation that demand our collective attention,” said the Vice President.
“But many were bothered and offended by it. As we all rightly should. Tasteless remarks and inappropriate advances against women should have no place in our society. We should expect that most of all from our leaders,” she said.
Sen. Leila de Lima chimed in, describing as “sexist” the President’s statements.
De Lima, among Mr. Duterte’s fierce critics, has received her fair share of tirades from the President, particularly about her extramarital affairs and her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
In Tacloban City on Tuesday, the President also asked Robredo in jest if rumors were true that she had found a boyfriend. “Don’t be offended. Is it true? If it’s true, a congressman may be killed.”
Yesterday, he said that he made the comments because it was “necessary to make people laugh, for them to enjoy the occasion, because I was angry.”
“I was angry because after P42 billion for the NHA (National Housing Authority) and P30 billion to the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), only 4,000 (families) have moved in to their new houses,” he said. “It was to break the ice. That’s what I did.”
He said it was “natural” for politicians like him to deliver those kind of jokes after getting mad and “just to point out something.”
“You make a big issue about the knee?” he said. “I hope that next time … kindly go to important matters. Do not go into trivialities about the women’s knees. That’s what the media want. They will look for something to picture you as crass.” —WITH REPORTS FROM NIKKO DIZON AND TARRA QUISMUNDO
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