MANILA, Philippines – Even as Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte continues to face strong criticism from the electorate and beyond, one of his rivals for the presidency, friend-turned-foe Manuel Roxas II, did not let up in criticizing the man he calls "judge, jury, executioner."
"Mayor Duterte is the biggest and gravest threat to our democracy. He is a dictator. We have seen this in how he carries himself; we have seen this through his opinions; we have seen this in how he acts, with his viewpoint as the only valid one," said Roxas, the Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer, in a news conference while campaigning in Calbayog City on Monday, April 18.
During a campaign rally in Quezon City last April 12, Duterte had recounted a hostage crisis in Davao City back in 1989, his first year as mayor.
"Nirape nila lahat ng mga babae so 'yung unang asolte, kasi nagretreat sila, naiwan yung ginawa nilang cover, ang isa doon yung lay minister na Australyana. Tsk, problema na ito. Pag labas, edi binalot. Tiningnan ko yung mukha, 'tangina parang artista sa America na maganda. Putangina, sayang ito. Ang nagpasok sa isip ko, nirape nila, pinagpilahan nila doon. Nagalit ako kasi nirape, oo isa rin 'yun . Pero napakaganda, dapat ang mayor muna ang mauna. Sayang,” he says in a clip that’s gone viral.
(All the women were raped so during the first assault, because they retreated, the bodies they used as a cover, one of them was the corpse of the Australian woman lay minister. Tsk, this is a problem. When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that's one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.)
Duterte has insisted it was not a joke, but a mere recollection of the events from decades ago. Still, politicians and the public have denounced Duterte for seemingly making light of rape.
"Rape violates one's dignity. Rape is not just a crime of sex. Rape is a crime of control. Rape is a crime of subjugation. What differentiates torture from rape? In torture, you handcuff a person and subject him to things that he dislikes. Rape is the same. So this is a serious matter," said Roxas.
The LP stalwart added: "I do not want our country's President to be someone who views these grave matters as Duterte does, as though one can joke lightly about them. It is not right, and I will not permit it."
Roxas also criticized Duterte for supposedly running on a foundation of "lies," referring to his promise to end crime in 3-6 months and for his "support" of the New People's Army (NPA).
"That is why, Mayor Duterte, I will be your enemy. I will not allow a dictatorship in our country," said Roxas.
Roxas and Duterte have figured in heated exchanges via media interviews before. In late December 2015, the two argued over Davao's safety and the LP stalwart's supposed lies about his educational background.
As the campaign period began, Duterte made it a point to hit Roxas for his supposed ineptitude – criticism Roxas initially ignored.
During the same press briefing, Roxas trumpeted his plans to create a Cabinet composed of the "best and brightest Filipinos."
Half of those officials, he said, will be women – more than the current Cabinet of President Benigno Aquino III.
"Bilang vice president, si Leni Robredo will lead the team of women executives sa ating gabinete. Tulad noong sinabi ko noong isang araw, kalahati ng ating gabinete ay magiging babae, led by Leni Robredo, sisiguraduhin natin na the best and the brightest Filipinos. Babae man o hindi, o kahit pa LGBT, ay makakabahagi sa ating gabinete para ang mamamayang Pilipino will also get the best and the brightest product," said Roxas, when asked what role women would play should he win on May 9.
(As Vice President, Leni Robredo will lead the team of female executives in my Cabinet. Like I said before, half of my Cabinet will be made up of women, led by Leni Robredo. And we'll make sure to get the best and brightest Filipinos. Woman or not, even those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender sector, will be part of the Cabinet so Filipinos get the best and brightest products.)