Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte—a man who routinely mocks rape victims, brags about killing people, and who once told a female senator to publicly hang herself—admitted in a speech to sexually abusing a former housemaid as a teenager.
Duterte made the comments in a public speech criticizing the Roman Catholic Church over its sexual abuse scandals. The church has protested Duterte’s deadly war on drug users, which has reportedly killed an estimated 20,000 people in two years.
The BBC reports that Duterte described confessing the assault to the priest:
“I lifted the blanket... I tried to touch what was inside the panty,” he said. “I was touching. She woke up so I left the room.”
He said he told the priest that he later returned to the woman’s room and tried to molest her again.
That Duterte is an alleged victim of sexual abuse does not make his alleged crime any less appalling or severe. He routinely mocks rape victims and even encourages rape. As the former mayor of Davao City, Duterte once said this about a murdered Australian missionary who was gang raped and murdered in Davao: “I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”
As president, he has mocked rape, saying, “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.”
“Who agrees to do it on the first request anyway? Will the woman allow it? No. ‘Don’t, no, ahhh.’ Nobody agrees to do it on the first try,” he continued.
The Philippine Commission on Human Rights investigated extrajudicial killings in Davao City in 2008, when Duterte was its mayor. The commission’s former chairwoman, Leila de Lima, has become one of Duterte’s most vocal critics in the Philippines. She was elected senator and served as chair of the Senate Justice Committee, which investigated Duterte’s ties to the Davao Death Squad. Duterte encouraged de Lima to kill herself, then accused her of “having an affair with her driver, of making a sex tape that he claimed to have watched, and of taking millions of dollars in cash from convicted drug traffickers to finance her senatorial campaign,” the New York Times reported. de Lima was arrested on drug charges in 2017, which she has denied, and continues to speak out against Duterte from jail.
While the authoritarian’s popularity has taken a dip in recent months, as of September he still had an approval rating of 60 percent.
Despite his long history of mocking sexual assault and threatening women, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo is trying to spin the admission of sexual assault as a “laughable anecdote” to “dramatize the fact of sexual abuse that was inflicted on him and his fellow students when they were in high school.”
“He purposely added and spliced the story with vulgarity to characterize the behavior of the priest who insisted to hear more sins during their confessions when there were none,” Panelo told CNN Philippines.
“The president has evolved an unorthodox and mischievous method of exposing and criticizing the hypocritical practices of those men in religious cloak,” he said, adding that Duterte is “effective in transmitting to the nation his political and social dogmas.”