Duterte's spokesman: President's comments shouldn't be taken literally

This article is more than 12 months old

MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte should be taken seriously, but not literally, his spokesman said on Tuesday, after the controversial leader drew criticism for saying he once ordered soldiers to shoot female Maoist insurgents in the genitals.

"I have been saying again and again, do not take the president literally but take him seriously," spokesman Harry Roque told reporters.

Mr Roque said the context of Mr Duterte's Feb 7 remarks was that he was angry communist insurgents had betrayed his trust and forced a peace process with the government to collapse. He claimed the president had repeatedly proven that welfare of women was a priority.

Speaking in his native Visayan dialect, Mr Duterte was recalling an order he said he had given to troops when he was mayor of Davao City.

"Tell the soldiers: 'There's a new order coming from mayor. We won't kill you. We will just shoot your vagina.'" A translation in an official transcript of the remarks omitted the word vagina.

Gabriela, a women's group represented in Congress, called Mr Duterte "the most dangerous macho-fascist" and said his remark "openly encourages violence against women".

"He has presented himself as the epitome of misogyny and fascism," representative Emmi de Jesus said.

Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde said Mr Duterte's remark was "just the latest in a series of misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements" about women.

Mr Duterte is known for his informal style and his speeches frequently feature profanity, threats and jokes which offend some Filipinos, but are taken lightly by many others. - REUTERS