THE Australian Embassy in Manila on Monday stepped in on the burning issue sparked by a reckless remark by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte over a murdered Australian rape victim that now threatens to sear his presidential candidacy.
In a brief statement posted on her Twitter account, Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely said serious crimes like rape and murder are no laughing matter.
“Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialised. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere,” she said.
Tough-talking Duterte, whose platform promises a ruthless war on crime and illegal drugs, came under heavy fire for his statements on the rape and killing of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill in 1989.
Hamill, then 36, was ministering at the Davao City Police Office when she was taken hostage, raped and killed by a gang inside the jail.
Duterte ordered the killing of the suspects.
But what got the goat of the public was the mayor’s statement after Hamill’s tragic end.
“What a pity. What came to my mind was, ‘They raped her, lined up for her.’ I was mad because she was raped? Yes. That’s one reason. But she was so beautiful. The mayor should have been first,” Duterte said in Tagalog.
‘No’ vote, no joke
Robin Haines Merrill, who was working as a missionary in Manila at the time of the incident, also took to Facebook to “publicly denounce the presidential candidacy of Duterte in the Philippines.”
“I realize ministering in jails as a woman is very risky and looks outright naive, like the ‘you got what was coming to you’ mentality that is prevalent today. But all ministry and everyday life is a big risk, and we must be obedient to the voice of the spirit of God, even if it leads us to death.
“Jacqueline’s death affected me deeply personally, as I had been visiting just about every jail in Manila with the ACTION/CGM teams from 1986-89. I couldn’t yet speak the language but I could play the flute and just show love to people in horrible situations,” she said.
Merrill urged Filipinos not to vote “for people who speak vile things against women.”
But Duterte denied that he made a joke of the incident.
“I was not smiling. I was just talking plain sense narrative.”
He, however, apologized for his “gutter language.”
“I am sorry in general. I am sorry for the Filipino people. It is my style. It is my mouth. I said that in the heat of anger. But listen to the story behind [it],” the mayor said.
‘Rating to take a hit’
Professor Ramon Casiple said Duterte’s ratings will take a hit.
“His problem is people now believe that Duterte thinks that way and it is difficult to accept such kind of thinking,” Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms in the Philippines, explained.
“No thinking person would elect a president who thinks like that,” the political analyst said.
Casiple added that it will be difficult for Duterte to recover because the issue erupted at a crucial stage of the campaign.
Lito Banayo, Duterte’s political strategist, came to the mayor’s defense, saying he is “not a perfect person.”
“It’s just how he is,” Banayo said in a radio interview.
Banayo, a former administrator of the National Food Authority, added that the incident is not likely to prompt Duterte to change himself.
“May pagka ipokrito na kung [He would be a hypocrite if] he would change himself at this stage, this late in the game,” he said
When asked if Duterte would apologize to women who were offended by his words, Banayo replied, “Hindi naman niya ininsulto ang bangkay [He did not insult the victim]. I understand the offended feelings, especially ng mga babae dito sa nangyaring ito [of the women because of this incident], but let’s put it in the context that this was in 1989. I am not making excuses but you tend to put it in the context of 1989 instead of 2016.”