A group of women in Manila, including some rape and abuse victims, condemn presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte's comments on the rape and killing of an Australian missionary in 1989. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
A Philippine mayor running for president in this year's national elections called the country's Catholic bishops "dumb" for misunderstanding his comments on rape.
"They're dumb as they don't understand what I said. It was slang," said Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of the southern city of Davao and a front runner in the May 9 election.
Duterte, nicknamed "Dirty Harry" for his tough stance on crime, has come under fire over his comments about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary in 1989.
Duterte, who was the mayor of Davao at the time, was caught on video recently commenting on how beautiful Jaqueline Hamill, the slain 36-year old missionary, was.
"I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first," Duterte told a crowd of supporters who seemed amused at the comment.
Catholic bishops and women's group have since chided Duterte for his comments.
"I thought all the while I was doing my duties for humanity. And now they’re castigating me for my mouth?" Duterte said.
"I am a candidate with a foul mouth who kills criminals, but [bishops], I am not a thief. You choose between the two," he said, adding that despite his "bad mouth" he could still provide the country a "clean government."
"If the [Catholic bishops' conference] is correct don't vote for me. If you obey the [bishops], fine go with them," said Duterte.
On April 19, Duterte sent a statement apologizing for his remarks on the slain Australian missionary. "I apologize to the Filipino people for my recent remarks. There was no intention of disrespecting our women and those who have been victims of this horrible crime," Duterte said.
"Sometimes my mouth can get the better of me. My life is an open book. I am a man of many flaws and contradictions," he added.
Nonetheless, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu reminded Filipinos to vote for a leader who can "relate with other people in many parts of world."
"What if this kind of joke were to spread to other people from different parts of the world? Can we feel at ease with that kind of person?" asked Archbishop Palma.
Asked why despite Duterte's personality voters prefer him over other candidates, Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan said a lot of Filipinos want "quick fix and instant" solutions to problems. "We don't know how to process the situation," she said.
"It's like mob psychology or mob madness. A lot of Filipinos are deceived by Duterte's words," she said.
Duterte is seven percentage points ahead of his nearest rival Senator Grace Poe, according to a pre-presidential election survey conducted by pollster Pulse Asia.