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Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte says women are not fit to be president

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is known for sexist remarks about women. (Dondi Tawatao/Reuters)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to pour cold water on his daughter’s political ambitions this week when he suggested that women are ill-suited for the presidency, the latest in a string of disparaging remarks the leader has made against women.

Duterte’s daughter, 42-year-old Sara Duterte-Carpio, is the incumbent mayor of Davao City and recently led an opinion poll that asked respondents to choose their preferred candidate for the 2022 elections. Duterte-Carpio has insisted she is not seeking the presidency, but she remains widely popular amid speculation she will run.

“My daughter is not running [for president]. I have told Inday not to run because I pity her that she will have to go through what I experienced,” Duterte, 75, said at a public event Thursday, using a nickname for Sara, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

“This is not for a woman,” he said of the presidency, despite the fact that two of his predecessors were women. “You know, the emotional setup of a woman and a man is totally different. It will drive you nuts. This is the sad story.”

The remarks were in line with previous comments that Duterte has levied against women, whom he once referred to publicly as “bitches.” He has also made frequent jokes about rape — once appearing to admit to committing sexual assault — and suggested that soldiers target the sexual organs of female rebels, a tactic he said would render them “useless” as women.

Presidential spokesmen have consistently played down his misogynistic remarks as harmless attempts to “lighten the mood” during national tragedies or serious political events.

Duterte’s vice president, Leni Robredo, is a woman. She belongs to a rival political party and has emerged as a critic of Duterte, who has targeted her in public, referring once to the length of her skirt at a commemoration for the victims of a deadly typhoon.

“Ma’am Leni wore a dress that was shorter than usual. The protocol officers probably noticed I was always behind her,” he said, according to the Philippine news site, Rappler. “I told [Finance Secretary] Sonny Dominguez, ‘You're too far, come closer. Check out her knees.’ ”

Duterte-Carpio, who has served as first lady because of her father’s annulled marriage, told Reuters on Thursday that she informed her father she did not intend to run for president.

“I am not being coy nor am I doing a ‘last-minute,’ ” Duterte-Carpio said in a text message, Reuters reported.

Still, on Friday, Duterte’s spokesman said in a radio interview that the president’s daughter is the “most qualified” contender for the office, the Inquirer reported.

“The election is still far [away],” said the spokesman, Harry Roque. “But for me, I think Mayor Inday Sara is the most qualified … and as the survey shows, if ever she runs, she will win.”

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