Duterte invokes freedom of speech

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star

KALIBO, Aklan, Philippines – Presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has invoked freedom of expression in the face of complaints filed against him by women’s rights advocates.

“Kalokohan yan. It’s silly, S-I-L-L-Y,” Duterte told reporters Wednesday night when asked to comment on the complaint in connection with his rape comment that has stirred outrage among Filipinos.

“Ang masabi ko na lang sa inyo it is a sacred right,” he said, referring to freedom of speech. “Nobody can question my mouth,” he said.

He said he wanted to talk to the women’s group to discuss the matter with them, but he called them “crazy” as they filed the complaints because he “just expressed his freedom of speech.”

The “Women Against Duterte” movement – a coalition of women’s rights advocates, environmentalists and workers’ groups led by Ana Maria Nemenzo of Woman Health Philippines, Jean Enriquez of World March of Women, Judy Pasimio of Katutubong Lilak and Josua Mata of Sentro – filed complaints against Duterte before the Commission on Human Rights.

“Crazy. You are crazy. You are demanding an explanation because I was exercising my constitutional rights? Ano kayo?” he said before thousands of Aklanons here.

“Pero gusto kong makilala itong mga babaeng nag demanda, okay lang, mag-usap kami (But I would like to meet these women who sued me). What are you trying to do?”

Duterte stood firm that the women’s group that filed the complaints against him was paid by his rivals as they kept on inventing stories that would affect his standing in the surveys.

He told them to “go to hell.”

He said he could not understand what the women were trying to convey when in fact he had killed 16 criminals who held hostage and raped the Australian missionary in a Davao prison in 1989.

Duterte is currently the presidential bet with the highest percentage of votes in recent election surveys.

At the same time, the mayor is accused of violating Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women – a law that protects the rights of women.

‘Cut ties’

On the other hand, Duterte said he would be willing to cut ties with Australia and the US if he gets elected after the ambassadors of the two countries expressed their sentiments over his rape joke.

He added he is not worried if the American and the Australian governments would cut ties with the Philippine government.

“If I become president, go ahead and sever it,” Duterte said.

Speaking before an estimated 15,000 crowd Wednesday night, Duterte said that he is mad at the Australian and American ambassadors for what he described as interference over his rape joke.

He said that the Australian and American envoys should shut up and not interfere in the elections.   

“Do not interfere, it’s election time, you better shut your mouth,” Duterte said.

His remarks came after Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely issued a statement saying rape and murder should never be trivialized.

“Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere,” Gorely said. 

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, asked about the issue in a television interview, said he does not comment on statements of any candidate in Philippine elections, although generally speaking, “any statements by anyone, anywhere that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder, are not ones that we condone.”

“Napaka gago naman ng mga p** inang mga ambassadors na ito. I was mad when I uttered it, when I narrated it hindi na ako galit,” he said in an ambush interview.   

He also stood firm on his decision not to apologize and talk to the envoys over his rape remarks, saying that he was only expressing his constitutional rights.

“Alam mo dito sa Pilipinas sabihin mo na ang gusto mo, p**, p** ina, yawa ka, you cannot be stopped, but if there is a person na nasaktan he can file a case against you,” he said.

Duterte had said he would be open to working with the western countries if China insisted on ownership of the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Asked if his remarks against the Australian and American envoys would affect the fight against China’s claims, Duterte said it would no longer be his problem.

“That’s their problem not mine. I never interfered in their elections,” he said.

Duterte has apologized to overseas Filipino workers who have claimed that their jobs abroad were affected following his rape joke.

“I’m sorry if you do not agree with me,” he said.

But Duterte said he would just give Australian and American ambassadors “a shit” if they cannot accept his explanation on the rape joke.

He urged his supporters to stay with him, but said they have to accept him for what he is.

“If you want to vote for me, accept me for what I am, but I can assure you, lahat diyan you cannot doubt my love of my country,” he said.

Mum on Duterte’s comments

The embassies of the US and Australia were mum on Duterte’s comments.

Australian embassy spokesman Richard Rodgers did not comment on Duterte’s remarks.

US embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer also declined to comment.

Meanwhile, in his speech at the One Cebu and PDP-Laban rally, Duterte said the two ambassadors should refrain from making further comments.

 “Hindi ninyo alam ang totoo. You don’t deserve your diplomatic purse,” Duterte said, adding, “I am not beholden to anybody. I can lose this election. But you know I have my own identity in this universe. I am Rodrigo Duterte and I will die as Rodrigo Duterte.”

Duterte also hit the CHR for taking part in the controversy. “Ang CHR nag demanda sa akin, isa pang gago ang opisinang yan, ibabasura ko yan. I will not answer your summons. This is election time, you must have delicadeza.”

Duterte said he is not going to die if he will not become president as from the beginning he had no ambition to be one.  – With Pia Lee-Brago, Mitchelle Palaubsanon/The Freeman

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