Roque defends Duterte's rape remark: 'It's more liberal in the South'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 31) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque advised critics not to put too much weight on President Rodrigo Duterte's latest rape comment, saying "it is more liberal in the South."

This comes after Duterte drew flak for his rape remark during a speech Thursday night, when he said that Davao City has many rape cases due to its many beautiful women.

Roque maintained the President's comment does not justify rape. He said people from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao all have their unique sense of humor.

"I don’t think we should give too much weight on what the President says by way of a joke," Roque said in a media briefing Friday.

"From what I have seen myself, although I am from Luzon, people from the South, they don't really take things as seriously as people in Luzon."

"Let's just say there are standards of what is offensive and what is not offensive. It's more liberal in the South," he added.

Duterte previously sparked criticism for his remarks against women, including threatening to shoot women communist rebels in their vagina. He also made headlines when he kissed a woman on the lips during a trip to South Korea in June.

In 2016, the President cracked the controversial "Dapat mauna ang mayor" rape joke about a detained Australian missionary. He later apologized for the statement.

Despite these criticisms, Roque insisted the Duterte administration will remain pro-women.

"I cannot really comment, but what the President has done recently is that he appointed yet another woman as Chief Justice," Roque told reporters.

"This comes after his previous appointments which were all women, including Department of Tourism secretary as well as the Acting Secretary of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).

Meanwhile, the #BabaeAko movement, a women's rights movement in the country, issued a statement Friday condemning the latest remark of the President.

"Rape has nothing to do with physical appearance or love," the statement read. "Duterte sees women's sexuality as their sole reason for existence."

"Filipino women, with their noble history of struggle and gains achieved, do not deserve Duterte," it added.