“I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.” The mayor to whom he was referring, by the way, is himself, Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, mayor of Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines.
That’s the kind of dark, cruel joke most people would be embarrassed to tell (or even hear) in the privacy of their own homes, yet it’s one that Duterte, a front-running candidate for president of the Philippines, told publicly.
A YouTube video showing the mayor making these statements recently surfaced and is causing an uproar even in a country accustomed to some raunchy politics. While commentators have started referring to him as another Donald Trump, this guy makes Trump look like Mr. Rogers. Among the previous nicknames for Duterte are “the punisher” and “Duterte Harry,” after the Clint Eastwood character Dirty Harry.
The video was shot during a campaign rally in Quezon City on April 12, CNN Philippines reported.
He was referring to an incident that took place during his first term as mayor, in August 1989, at the Davao jail.
Inmates of the jail overpowered their guards and grabbed their weapons, taking 15 people, including 36-year-old Australian lay minister Jacqueline Hamill, hostage in 1989.
Hamill told the Rev. Fred Castillo, another hostage who would later escape, that she was raped by her captors.
They also slashed her throat.
As troops stormed the prison, killing 15 captors in a hail of gunfire, Hamill was shot in the neck and died.
“I looked at her face, son of a b—-. She looks like a beautiful American actress … what a waste,” the presidential candidate said, before making the aforementioned remarks about how he should have been first.
Here’s the full text, translated by Rappler:
All the women were raped so during the first assault, because they retreated, the bodies they used as a cover, one of them was the corpse of the Australian woman layminister. Tsk, this is a problem. When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.
In a Facebook post Monday, the Australian Embassy in the Philippines wrote, “Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialised. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.”
The Australians were not the only ones with strong words for Duterte.
In response, one of the opposing presidential candidates in the May 9 election, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, said, “Anyone who laughs at the ultimate assault on the dignity of women should not be allowed to wield power,” CNN Philippines reported.
Sen. Grace Poe, another candidate quoted by CNN Philippines, said: “It is distasteful and unacceptable, and reflects his disrespect for women. No one, whoever she is and whatever her looks may be, deserves to be raped and abused. Rape is a crime and no laughing matter. We should all be outraged at abuses against women.”
Robin Haines Merrill, who worked with Hamill in the country as a missionary, posted a statement on Facebook:
“ON BEHALF OF MY SISTER IN CHRIST, MISSIONARY JACQUELINE HAMILL, I PUBLICALLY DENOUNCE THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY OF DUTERTE, IN THE PHILIPPINES. Jacqueline was raped and had her throat slit while ministering in the jails in southern Philippines in a 1989 hostage taking. Duterte was recorded this week saying in his political rally that while he ordered the killing of the hostage takers while he was mayor, he wished he could have raped her first, since she was so beautiful. Looking back on this photo, I realize ministering in jails as a woman is very risky and looks outright naive, like the ‘you got what was coming to you’ mentality that is prevalent today. But all ministry and everyday LIFE is a big risk, and we must be obedient to the voice of the spirit of God, even if it leads us to death.”
Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay took to Twitter to unabashedly state his discontent with Duterte.
Many users have tweeted about the mayor, tagging their tweets with #RapeIsNotAJoke. One user tweeted, “When we make light of rape, we’re empowering rapists and imply to victims that their situation shouldn’t be taken seriously.” Another tweeted, “I want a candidate who understands the responsibilities and accountabilities of the public office he/she is running for.”
Though the video shows the crowd laughing when he says this, Duterte denies allegations that it was said in jest. Instead, he admitted to having said it in 1989 and claims he was merely retelling the story at the rally.
“It was not a joke,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I said it in a narrative. I wasn’t smiling.”
“I said it in the heat of anger,” Duterte said. “I’m sorry in general. I’m sorry to the Filipino people, it’s my style, it’s my mouth, I said it in anger — listen to the story behind it.”
He once made a tourist swallow a cigarette butt for refusing to follow the city’s smoking ban, Rappler reported. He has described himself unapologetically as a “womanizer,” admitting to currently having three girlfriends and a common-law wife, according to CNN Philippines. He has pledged to execute 100,000 criminals and feed them to the fish in the Manila Bay, Kicker Daily News reported.
Still, he’s a front-runner.
“Duterte poses a grave challenge to the country’s fragile democratic institutions,” said two scholars writing earlier this month in the East Asia Forum. “He has promised to ‘clean up the country’ within six months and has threatened to abolish Congress or tame the courts if they try to stand in his way. The rapid rise of voter support for Duterte, despite his late entry into the race, highlights the pent-up anger among the lower-middle class at the deterioration of public order and concerns about growing drug abuse.
“Duterte’s neo-authoritarian style, alongside ‘anti-Imperial Manila’ sentiments, has fueled his popularity, particularly in his birthplace of southern Mindanao. Duterte does not deny his poor human rights record — instead he brags about extrajudicial killings that he claims were necessary to pacify Davao,” the scholars, Julio C. Teehankee of De La Salle University and Mark R. Thompson, of the City University of Hong Kong, wrote. “Along with his bombastic style and rough language — which is typical of a many local politicians but unusual in national politics — this cavalier attitude makes him a kind of Philippine version of Donald Trump.”
He projects “the look of somebody who could actually deliver on what people need, has that ability to connect with a certain group of the electorate,” Jeremy Gatdula, a professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific’s School of Law and Governance, told ABS-CBN News.
Whether that will be enough to elect him on May 9 remains uncertain, but his “joke” has stirred the ire of many Twitter users.