(UPDATE – 12:22 p.m.) “‘Pag naka-rape ka ng tatlo, aminin ko na akin ‘yun (If you rape three times, I’ll take the blame).”
This was the joking assurance President Rodrigo Duterte gave to troops of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Iligan City Friday.
The brigade is among the units deployed to flush out the Maute group from Marawi City, where fighting broke out Tuesday, prompting Duterte, who was in Russia at the time, to declare the whole of Mindanao under martial law and cut short is visit.
Since then, fighting has continued in the Lanao del Sur capital, which has become a virtual ghost town.
Although he had earlier said he would not tolerate abuses by security forces during martial law, Duterte told the troops in Iligan: “For this martial law and the consequences of martial law, and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Trabaho lang … ako na bahala, ako na magpakulong (It’s just work … I’ll take care of it, I’ll go to prison),” Duterte said.
And then he cracked the rape joke.
Before this, he also told the soldiers that, “during martial law, your commanders … you can arrest any person, search any house, wala nang (with no need for a) warrant … ASSO lang (which) could be signed by (Armed Force chief) General (Eduardo) Ano.”
The ASSO, or arrest, search and seizure order, was an instrument created by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to allow security forces to carry out arrests without warrants after he placed the country under martial law in 1972, beginning a 14-year dictatorship that ended with his ouster in the 1986 People Power uprising.
Duterte’s attempt at levity drew a sharp rebuke Saturday from Tanggol Bayi, an association of women human rights defenders affiliated with the organization Karapatan, who called him out for “preaching to a monstrous choir.”
The group accused Duterte of having “encouraged a known fascist institution, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to do exactly what it has been doing.”
“Women, especially the poor who have been at the receiving end of such violence, are not laughing,” it added.
It called rape by security forces “a tool of the State to inflict violence, to humiliate and to subjugate women into silence and submission … to terrorize women, our children and families, our communities … a tool of war against women human rights defenders who fight back against State repression, poverty, injustice and intervention.”