Rodrigo Duterte (Photo by Vincent Go)
A leading Philippines presidential hopeful, nicknamed "Dirty Harry" for his tough stance on crime, has come under fire over comments about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary.
Rodrigo Duterte was caught on video commenting how beautiful Jaqueline Hamill, a 36-year old missionary, was.
Hamill was raped and killed during a riot by inmates at a prison in the southern city of Davao in 1989.
Duterte, one of the front-runners in the upcoming May 9 presidential election, was the mayor of Davao at the time.
"They raped all of the women ... There was this Australian lay minister ... when they took them out ... I saw her face and I thought: 'Son of a bitch. What a pity ... they raped her, they all lined up,'" said Duterte.
"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.
The women's group Gabriela condemned the mayor's comment, saying that rape is a "serious crime not just against women but against humanity."
The group demanded an apology from Duterte for making fun of rape.
"We also challenge him to use his campaign to promote issues that will elevate the condition of women and their families," said Gert Libang, Gabriela's spokeswoman.
The mayor, however, refused to apologize. "It was not a joke. I said it as a narrative. I was not smiling," he told reporters April 18.
"Do not make me apologize for something which I did not do. It's a matter of honor ... I said it in the heat of anger," he said. "I am sorry in general. I am sorry to the Filipino people," Duterte later said.
He said he made the comment in the "heat of anger" over the incident.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic bishops' conference, said it is up to the Filipino people to judge if they will elect Duterte in the election.
"Judge for yourself if this is the right choice. I will keep my personal judgment to myself. This video can help," said Archbishop Villegas in a post on Twitter with a link to the video of Duterte's comment.
In December last year, the country's Catholic bishops condemned Duterte's use of offensive language to criticize Pope Francis for causing a traffic jam in Manila during his visit to the Philippines in January 2015.
In a statement, Archbishop Villegas described Duterte's comments as vulgar.
"Vulgarity is corruption. When we find vulgarity funny, we have really become beastly and barbaric as a people," said the prelate.
A study done by the non-government Center for Women's Resources released last month show that a woman, or a child, is raped in the Philippines every 53 minutes.
Based on the study's estimate, the number of recorded rape cases increased by 92 percent from 5,132 in 2010 to 9,875 in 2014.