The president of the Philippines doesn’t exactly have a reputation for biting his tongue.
Rodrigo Duterte rose to power even as he spewed crude comments in public speeches and then, as president, launched a crackdown on drug use that has left thousands of people dead.
And in a speech on Thursday, Duterte made a joke about rape in an apparent reference to a recent police report that said his hometown of Davao, where he once served as mayor, has recorded significant instances of sexual violence.
“They said there are many rape cases in Davao,” Duterte said. “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.”
The president continued by asking rhetorically, “Who agrees to do it on the first request anyway? “Nobody agrees to do it on the first try. That is rape.”
Women’s groups condemned the remark and his spokesman was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I don’t think we should give too much weight on what the president says by way of a joke.”
“They’re not O.K. with rape jokes,” he said, “but let’s just say that perhaps the standard of what is offensive and what is not offensive is more liberal in the south.”
It’s hard to even keep track of how many similar comments Duterte has made since he took office in 2016. Last year, he reportedly joked that soldiers working in areas where martial law had been declared could rape three women without facing punishment. “If you had raped three, I will admit it, that’s on me,” he said, according to Al Jazeera.
On the campaign trail, before he was elected, he brought up the case of an Australian missionary, Jacqueline Hamill, who inmates at a jail in Davao gang-raped and killed in a prison riot in 1989. At the time, he was serving as Davao’s mayor.
“I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing,” he said. “But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”
When Australian Ambassador to Manila Amanda Gorely responded on Twitter that “rape and murder should never joke about or trivialized,” Duterte barked back. “This is politics,” he wrote. “Stay out. Stay out Australian government. Stay out.”
In yet another comment about sexual assault in 2017, he reportedly said that he doesn’t like it when kids are raped but, “you can mess with, maybe Miss Universe,” he said. “Maybe I will even congratulate you for having the balls to rape somebody when you know you are going to die.”
Other gaffes of Duterte’s include calling the U.S. ambassador to Manila a “gay son of a whore,” and calling God “stupid,” in a country where the majority of people are Catholic.
And when his daughter said she was sexually assaulted, he called her a “drama queen,” the New York Times reported.