Philippines' Duterte, Set to Visit Israel Next Week, Says There Will Be Many Rapes 'If There Are Many Beautiful Women'

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Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte a ceremony to commemorate the National Heroes' Day at the Heroes Cemetery in Manila on August 27, 2018
Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte a ceremony to commemorate the National Heroes' Day at the Heroes Cemetery in Manila on August 27, 2018Credit: AFP

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said there would be many rape cases in the Philippine city of Davao ''if there were many beautiful women.'' Duterte was responding to police data showing the city had the country's highest rate of rape cases.

Duterte is set to land in Israel on Sunday for a four-day visit, during which he will participate in the inauguration ceremony Wednesday of a monument commemorating the rescue of Jews by Filipinos during the Holocaust.

>> Israeli human rights activists to President Rivlin: Don't meet Philippines' Duterte

In 2016, Duterte compared his harsh policies against drug dealers in his country to Hitler's extermination of the Jews.

"They said there are many rape cases in Davao," said the president during his speech, further explaining that "If there are many beautiful women, there will be many rape cases as well." The comment was met with audible laughter.

Following the speech, Duterte's spokesperson said these statement should not be taken seriously.

According to Phillipine police, 42 people were reportedly raped in Davao between April and June. Duterte's critics claim this data contradicts his claims that Davao is crime-free.

In his speech, Duterte reiterated that he wanted to quit before his term ends in 2022, but was reluctant to hand power to Leni Robredo, the vice president who was elected separately and was not his running mate.

Robredo has been a critic of the president’s deadly war on drugs. Duterte said there would be disorder if his crackdown was halted, and the Philippines could do with an authoritarian at the helm.

“You’re better off choosing a dictator of the likes of Marcos, that’s what I suggested,” Duterte said. “Constitutional succession, it’s Robredo. But she cannot hack it.”

Duterte’s expressed admiration for the much-vilified Marcos has been controversial, with many Filipinos still tormented by his brutal two-decade rule, ended in his overthrow in a popular, army-backed uprising in 1986.

Thousands of people were arrested, killed, tortured or disappeared under martial law in the 1970s.

Many survivors are reminded of that by the political influence wielded by the Marcos family, with widow Imelda a congresswoman, his son and namesake a former senator who lost to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential election, and daughter, Imee Marcos a provincial governor.

Imee Marcos, 62, is expected to run for the senate next year and attends or speaks at many of Duterte’s public events around the country, despite having no role in his administration.

She caused outrage last week when she said it was time for older Filipinos to “move on” from the martial law years, like younger ones had.

The mercurial Duterte, 73, has been talking more often about retiring, due to exasperation about corruption and narcotics. Rumors have spread that he is in declining health, which he dismissed on Thursday as “fake news”.

In the same speech, he said that amid turmoil in the Catholic Church worldwide, he wanted to create an “opening” at home for victims to reveal abuse by priests, which he personally had experienced.

The arrival of the controversial president has made waves in Israel. In August, a group of human rights activists asked President Reuven Rivlin to refrain from meeting Duterte, who they described as "a mass murderer and a person who supports rape, shooting women in their sexual organs and bombing schools."

In 2016, the Philippine president compared his campaign against drug dealers to the Holocaust, and said he would kill dealers like Hitler killed Jews. "Critics compare me to Hitler's cousin," he said. "Hitler massacred 3 million Jews ... there's 3 million drug addicts. There are. I'd be happy to slaughter them."

"If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have...," he said, pausing and pointing to himself.

Duterte later apologized for his words, and followed up with a visit to a synagogue in the Filipino city of Makati during a celebration of the Jewish New Year.