MANILA, Philippines—Representatives of women’s groups filed a complaint Wednesday at the Commission on Human Rights against the front-runner in the Philippine presidential race for his remark about wanting to rape an Australian missionary who was assaulted and killed by prisoners during a hostage-taking in 1989.
The complainants said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte violated a law protecting women’s rights through a string of actions, including his rape comment. Duterte has topped recent voter surveys for the May 9 presidential election.
At a campaign stop last week, Duterte said Australian Jacqueline Hamill, who was gang raped and killed during a 1989 prison siege, was so beautiful that he “should have been the first” to assault her. His supporters at the rally laughed and cheered, but the comment sparked a storm of criticism.
He finally apologized for the remark on Tuesday, saying “sometimes my mouth can get the better of me.”
Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely had tweeted Sunday that “rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized” and “violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.” And a rival candidate called Duterte a “crazy maniac” who was not fit to lead the nation.
“Our complaint stems from the string of actuations as shown in print and video by Mr. Duterte, showing his callous, derogatory and insulting treatment of women,” leaders of nine women and workers’ groups said in their complaint.
The commission serves an ombudsman role under the Philippine law called the Magna Carta of Women and can investigate and refer cases to appropriate government bodies for action.
A commission statement Wednesday expressed “grave concern over the repeated and consistent trivialization of rape in the statements of Mayor Duterte” and reminded Duterte of the state’s obligation to protect women’s rights. It promised to formally seek Duterte’s answer to the complaint and to pursue the case.
Aside from the rape remark, the complainants pointed to a video on YouTube of Duterte narrating before a laughing audience that as a student, he confessed to a priest that he would go to the bedroom of his family’s household helper to peek under her blanket as she slept. They also cited pictures of Duterte kissing women supporters on the mouth on the campaign trail or carrying them on his lap as he kissed them.
“To make the rape of a woman who was later killed a laughing matter, and to treat women as playthings to be taken advantage of constitute an affront to us and all women,” they added.
Jean Enriquez, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking In Women – Asia Pacific, said she and other complainants were not supporting a particular candidate and their action had nothing to do with politics.