MANILA, Philippines – Critics slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for joking that Filipinos should avoid using condoms because these "aren't pleasurable," as he advised his countrymen to "eat" condoms instead.
Carlos Conde, researcher for the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said it was "irresponsible" for Duterte to downplay the importance of condoms.
This is because the Philippines has "the fastest growing epidemic" of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Instead of criticizing condoms as a pleasure inhibitor, Duterte should take meaningful action to protect the health of Filipinos by backing urgently needed policy changes to expand the accessibility and use of condoms in the Philippines," Conde said in an article published on the HRW website Friday, February 16.
Duterte on Tuesday, February 13, said in an event with overseas Filipino workers from Kuwait, "'Wag 'yang condom kasi hindi masarap 'yang condom." (Avoid condoms because condoms aren't pleasurable."
"Kainin mo. 'Yan ang condom," Duterte added. (Eat it. That's the condom.)
Like Conde, Senator Risa Hontiveros also scored Duterte for making these comments.
"President Duterte should stop making thoughtless, reckless and irresponsible statements at the expense of public health," Hontiveros said in a statement Thursday, February 15.
"President Duterte seems to be overly concerned with pleasure. There is nothing pleasurable or funny about the rise in our cases of HIV and teen pregnancy," Hontiveros added.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.