Duterte's rape joke puts soldiers in a bad light – Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo said it was unfair for soldiers that President Rodrigo Duterte seemed to imply they could commit crimes while martial law is in effect in Mindanao.

Duterte, in a speech before troops last Friday, May 26, had joked that he would take the place of any soldier convicted of rape committed under martial law. (READ: Palace defends Duterte's rape joke as 'heightened bravado'

"Tingin ko parang hindi rin ito makatarungan sa mga miyembro… sa ating mga sundalo. Hindi makatarungan na magkaroon ng implikasyon na dahil panahon ng martial law, parang iniisip nila o binibigyan silang lisensyang gumawa ng isang bagay na ganyang kasama," Robredo said as she visited Mindanao on Monday, May 29. 

(This is unjust for the soldiers. It is unjust because there would be an implication that during this period of martial law, they are thinking of committing a crime or they are being given the license to do something as evil as that.)

Robredo pointed out that strengthening trust in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is crucial at this time.

"Panahon ito para iyong pinakamataas na respeto para sa kanila, kinakailangan nila," she said. (This is a time for them to be regarded with the utmost respect that they need.)

The Vice President earlier urged the public to trust the AFP in the implementation of martial law. This was after she attended a military briefing on the situation in Marawi City, where government forces are battling members of the Maute Group.

On Monday, Robredo went to the wake of a soldier killed in the clashes in Marawi City. She also visited injured soldiers at the Adventist Medical Center in Iligan City.

Too early to tell 

Duterte declared martial law in the whole Mindanao last May 23 after the clashes erupted in Marawi City. The AFP had said at the time that the situation in the city was under control. (READ: Who's who in Duterte's martial law)

Robredo said it is too early to tell if martial law will resolve the crisis in Marawi City. (READ: Questions you need to ask about martial law in Mindanao)

What is certain, said the Vice President, is that human rights must be upheld.

"Sana ma-assure naman tayo ng Pangulo, ma-assure tayo ng AFP at saka ng PNP, na kahit nagdesisyon na ganitong drastic na deklarasyon, masiguro sana na wala nang pang-aabuso, masiguro na hindi ito magiging daan para mas maging madilim pang ulit iyong pinagdaanan natin," she said. 

(I hope the President, the AFP, and the Philippine National Police would be able to assure us that even if the President made this drastic declaration, there would be no abuses, that this would not pave the way for an even darker chapter in our history.)

Robredo previously expressed support for the President's decision and the efforts to eliminate the terrorists in Mindanao. However, she said the Duterte administration should set clear parameters and Congress must perform its duty to review the declaration.

Malacañang just submitted a written report on martial law to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez last May 25. Minority senators have filed a resolution calling for a joint congressional session to tackle the President's declaration.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the President has to report to Congress "in person or in writing" about the declaration within 48 hours. Congress has the power to revoke the declaration or extend it beyond the 60-day maximum period. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know– Rappler.com 

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.