Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte — congratulated last month by U.S. President Donald Trump for his murderous war on drugs — told his soldiers he will back them up if they rape women while enforcing martial law.
The remark, though apparently intended as humor, drew stinging rebukes from human rights and women’s organizations.
Duterte made his comment in a rambling speech Friday on the island of Mindanao, where he imposed martial law last Tuesday to battle militants linked to the Islamic State.
If any of them were to rape three women, he said, he would personally claim responsibility for the attacks, according to a transcript of the speech released by the president’s office, The Guardian reported.
“Fight, and I will pray for you and I will answer for everything,” he said at one point in English in a videotape of his speech. “If you go down, I go down. I and I alone will be responsible.”
He added: “Just do your job. I will take care of the rest. I will go to jail for you. If you rape three, I will admit it.”
He also said: “You can arrest any person, search any house.”
Phelim Kine, a deputy director with Human Rights Watch’s Asian division,
said the “pro-rape comments only confirm some of the worst fears of human rights activists that the Duterte government will not just turn a blind eye to possible military abuses in Mindanao, but may actively encourage them.”
The Gabriela Women’s Party in the Phillippines issued an angry statement saying: “Rape is not a joke. This attempt to please the military forces using women to feed the macho fascist mentality ... emboldens military forces to systematically use rape as a tool of war.”
Chelsea Clinton took to Twitter to lash the idea of a rape comment as a joke, saying: “Not funny. Ever.”
Duterte’s spokesman responded to the outrage by saying that the president was using “heightened bravado” to lift troop morale, Agence France-Presse reported.
Last year Duterte “joked” about an Australian missionary who was killed in a prison riot after men lined up to rape her. Duterte said she was beautiful and that he should have been first in line.
Duterte is notorious for the war on drugs he has launched that has resulted in the extra-judicial killings of at least 7,000 suspects. He once boasted that he himself had pushed a drug trafficking suspect out of a helicopter, but later said he was joking.
Trump, according to a transcript of an April 29 call leaked to the media, told Duterte, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
“Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said.
Trump has invited Duterte to visit him in the White House. Duterte hasn’t yet accepted the invitation.