MANILA, Philippines – Offended over Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s rape joke? Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago tells voters to express their indignition by not voting for him.
The senator, who is known for her tough and frank remarks, seemed to be a little forgiving to her opponent in the presidential race, saying that Duterte had the right to express himself.
“If the people would remark, they can express it through the ballot. He has the right [to] free expression. That’s the way he expresses himself,” she told reporters in a chance interview in Bulacan on Monday, April 18.
Santiago, however, acknowledged that Duterte “crossed a line” when he said he was angry at those who gang-raped an Australian lay missionary in 1989 because they beat him to her.
“He has been asked to apologize and he has refused to issue an apology. He does not deny that he made a statement – that is for him to decide,” Santiago said.
But, she said, it is up for voters to decide whether they would still vote for Duterte, who is has led pre-election surveys before the backlash from his rape joke at a campaign rally.
Senatorial candidate Walden Bello echoed Santiago’s suggestion for voters to make a “judgment” on Duterte through the ballot.
“He says he won’t apologize. Well, if he does not, let’s punish him in the polls on May 9,” Bello said in a statement on Monday.
He stressed that this kind of “discriminatory and abusive language will never be tolerated from anyone, and especially from one who aspires for the presidency of the Philippines.”
“To excuse Duterte’s comments is an insult to the women’s movement’s struggle for human rights and dignity, which we have supported and enshrined in a number of laws to make violations of these right illegal and politically unacceptable,” Bello said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay earlier said in a local sortie that it is the voter’s moral responsibility to prevent a Duterte presidency while calling him a “berdugo” (executioner).
In a chance interview in Cagayan de Oro on Monday, Binay posed a question to those who are saying they would vote for Duterte because he has the guts to have criminals killed, regardless of age.
"'Yun bang mere suspicion lang pinapatay niya. At saka sinasabi niya immaterial ke menor ke hindi, papatayin niya 'yun. Magkakaroon tayo ng presidenteng ganun.... Pero pagka napatay 'yung anak mo eh naiboto mo na si Duterte, paano na ngayon? Di magsisisi kayo, hindi na naman mabubuhay ang anak mo, hindi na mabubuhay ang mga kamag-anak mo na pinatay ni Duterte," he said.
(He has people killed out of suspicision, and he says it's immaterial if the suspect is a minor or not, he'd kill him. That's the president we want to have? But if you vote for him and he kills your child later, how do you take back your vote? Regret will not bring your child back to live; it won't bring back to life your relatives that Duterte has killed.)
Meanwhile, reelectionist Senator Ralph Recto called on the future president of the country to prioritize the suppression of rape and other forms of violence against women.
“Official reports paint a disturbing picture. A woman or a child is raped every 50 minutes. Last year, rape cases reported to the police and other law enforcement agencies reached 10,298, up from 9,887 in 2014,” Recto said.
Duterte was under fire since Sunday, April 17, because of a viral video where he was caught quipping that he should have been the first one to rape the Australian missionary because she was beautiful.