MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s rape joke did not only malign women, his jest, which many thought was more morbid than funny, also belittled soldiers, according to Sen. Leila de Lima.
“(O)ur brave men and women of the armed forces — why allow them to be painted like beasts, instead of the selfless, courageous and honorable public servants that they are?” said De Lima in a statement issued Sunday, May 28.
“Who says they want a pass for committing sexual assaults and other animal-like behavior? The commander-in-chief is obviously not a gentleman, but why allow them to be brought down to his level by his words?,” added the detained lawmaker.
Duterte earlier sought to reassure soldiers who might be accused of committing abuses under martial law, and jokingly said that if any of them were to rape three women, he would personally claim responsibility for it.
“If you go down, I go down. But for this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible, just do your job, I will take care of the rest,” Duterte said last Friday, May 26.
“I’ll imprison you myself,” he said, referring to any soldiers who commit violations, then he joked: “If you had raped three, I will admit it, that’s on me.”
On Sunday, De lima urged Filipinos to speak up and not allow Duterte to malign and abuse their fellow citizens.
“Kailan pa pumapayag ang mga Pilipino sa ganitong klase ng pambabastos at pambababoy sa ating kapwa tao?”
“People choose to be passive, perhaps because they feel responsible for voting for him—but no. You are not responsible for what he does after you vote for him.”
“You are, however, responsible for letting him get away with things like this with your silence. By electing him, he has not bought your souls and conscience — on the contrary, he now owes you his accountability.”
Also, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday “condemned” Duterte’s rape joke and urged government security forces “to remain faithful to their roles as defenders of human rights and the dignity of all, regardless of the circumstance.”
“Rape is never a joke. Women — especially those poor and vulnerable who bear the brunt of the ongoing violence on the ground — are not objects of ridicule either,” the CHR said, adding that it would continue monitoring the human rights situation on the ground.
Meanwhile, the women’s group Kaisa Ka (Pagkakaisa ng Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan) said Duterte’s rape joke “displays the President’s impunity—that he is not simply above the law rather he is the Law.”
“He is serving the women in a silver platter to the military. That it is okay to rape. He is encouraging the soldiers to commit a crime: one, to kill and two, rape not one but as many women as the soldiers can,” the group said.
“Now more than ever that we should be vigilant. We call on our brothers and sisters in uniform to resist illegal orders and respect the rights of Filipinos,” it added.