President Duterte joked that soldiers could rape up to three women, as he reassured them of his support in enforcing martial law in Mindanao.
The president made the comments during a speech at a military base to troops tasked with tackling islamist terrorism in the south of the country.
“If you go down, I go down,” he said. “For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just do your work. I will handle the rest.
“I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three women, I will say that I did it.”
He also joked that he would join soldiers in the fight against extremists if he could, but he had arthritis.
His words have provoked a furious response from human rights groups. In a statement released today (Saturday, May 27) Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) said: “Rape is a heinous crime, never a laughing matter. Rape by State security forces is even worse. It is a tool of the State to inflict violence, to humiliate and to subjugate women into silence and submission.
“It is a tool of the State to terrorize women, our children and families, our communities.
“President Duterte is preaching to a monstrous choir. He encouraged a known fascist institution, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to do exactly what it has been doing. Women, especially the poor who have been at the receiving end of such violence, are not laughing.”
Martial law was declared in Mindanao this week after Islamic State-affiliated islamists went on the rampage through the city of Marawi.
The chaos broke out after a failed raid on a Maute terror group safe house, where it was believed IS’s regional representative, or ‘emir’, Isnilon Hapsilon was being harboured.
Hapsilon, who has a $5 million FBI bounty on his head, is also a commander of Abu Sayyaf and it is believed he was seeking to bring together the various islamist terrorist groups in the south of the country under the black flag of IS.
In the ensuring clashes in the city, dozens have been killed and hostages, including a priest and his congregation, have been taken.
Operations involving attack helicopters and US-trained special forces are continuing.
Mr Duterte, aged 72, has a long history of making provocative remarks about women.
During the election campaign he said he had two mistresses but reassured taxpayers that they wouldn’t have to foot extravagant bills because he only took them to cheap, short-time hotels for sex.
“There was this Australian lay minister,” he said in April last year. “When they took them out, I saw her face and I thought, ‘Son of a whore. What a pity. They raped her, they all lined up. I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first’.”
He later apologised and said he did not intend to disrespect women or rape victims.
However, when the Australian and American ambassadors to Manila voiced disapproval at the comments, he reacted furiously and insisted he had been taken out of context.