Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, decided to insult women at an event Monday meant to honor those in attendance.
Duterte, speaking at an event celebrating women in law enforcement and national security, called the women a word translating to an expletive beginning with b, crazy, and also said women are “depriving me of my freedom of expression” because they “criticize every word I say.”
Did Duterte also say, “I love women,” and add: “That’s why you see I have two wives. That means I like women”? Duterte did.
These are not the first derogatory comments Duterte has made about women. In 2018, he ordered soldiers to shoot communist female rebels in the vagina and said the women would be “useless” without their vaginas. In 2017, when a portion of the country was under military rule, Duterte said he would personally take responsibility for the consequences of martial law, and that “I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three [women], I will say that I did it.” In 2016, during his election campaign, he talked about a 1989 prison riot in which an Australian missionary was killed and inmates waited in line to rape her, Duterte said he, too, wished he had had that opportunity.
Such comments are not out of character for the outspoken Philippine leader. This past December, he claimed he molested a maid as a teenager.
“His comments about women certainly do not color the Philippines in a positive way,” said Brian Harding, deputy director and fellow of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, adding that observers of the Philippines understand that Duterte does not necessarily speak for the Filipino people.
Women are, of course, not the only ones to be on the receiving end of the Duterte’s barbs.
In 2016, he called Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” The U.S. president subsequently canceled a meeting with Duterte. For the most part, though, comments about the United States haven’t hurt U.S. relations with the Philippines, a nation Washington considers critical for security in the region and a bulwark against expansionist China. U.S.-Filipino relations have improved since President Trump took office. In November 2017, Trump flew to Manila to meet with Duterte.
But according to Harding, “President Duterte’s statements do not do anything good for perceptions of cohesion of Filipino foreign policy.”
The presidential palace operates independently of the departments of national security and foreign policy, Harding said, and while cabinet secretaries want to be on Duterte’s good side, they “don’t necessarily” take his comments as directives. But, on occasion, the people of the Philippines do. This past December, he said, “These bishops of yours, kill them,” adding, “They’re good-for-nothing fools. All they do is criticize.” In the past month, at least two bishops and three priests who have been critical of the government have received death threats.
In 2017, he said the Catholic Church was “full of s---,” and that church leaders “all smell bad, corruption and all.” Duterte is critical of the Church because it has been critical of Duterte’s war on drugs, which features extrajudicial killings. As of December, more than 5,000 people have been slain because of Duterte’s war on drugs, according to officials. That number, however, is significantly lower than the estimate given by human rights groups, which put the casualties at closer to 12,000 or even 20,000.
In a speech in September, Duterte said: “What is my sin? Did I steal even one peso? Did I prosecute somebody who I ordered jailed? My sin is extrajudicial killings.”
The statement is perhaps more chilling to the people of the Philippines than any comment about women or Obama.
“There is no question,” Harding said, “that the president is a canny politician who uses the bully pulpit on foreign policy” — and perhaps on women — “to distract from difficult issues at home.”