Philippines' Duterte 'intimidated by strong women'

Philippine president's suggestive comments to country's tourism chief comes weeks after threatening to 'kiss' IMF chief.
Palace officials have repeatedly defended Duterte's comments on women as "jokes". / Internet photo
Palace officials have repeatedly defended Duterte's comments on women as "jokes". / Internet photo

Women's rights advocates in the Philippines have taken to social media to call out President Rodrigo Duterte's "sexist" statements, the latest of which include him suggesting that he take the country's tourism chief in a romantic liaison, and equating having a second wife to keeping a "spare tire" in the trunk of a car.

An advocate against domestic violence and a journalist said on Wednesday that launching the #BabaeAko (I am a woman) online campaign is their way to "push back at the misogyny of Duterte", and send a message that women are "fighting back".

"What is worrisome to me is that he is the president, and men are listening to him talk like that," Noemi Dado, an advocate for women's issues, said adding that the president's public pronouncements breed a culture of violence against women.

"Without him setting a very good example, it sends a bad signal to everyone. That's why there is domestic abuse in our country," Dado said. She told Al Jazeera that because of her writing online, many female victims of domestic abuse have written to her asking for help.

During a speech at the presidential palace on Monday, Duterte singled out from the audience Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, telling her in the Filipino language: "You are so beautiful".

In a rambling commentary, Duterte grumbled about a published photo of him and Puyat together.

During the same speech, he also dismissed criticisms that he is anti-women saying: "I am not rude. Don't believe those female critics of mine".

He later ordered palace camera operators to turn off the live television broadcast, "so we can attack all these women".

Just days earlier, the president was quoted by a local news site as saying he is not afraid to admit that he has a second wife.

"If a vehicle, which is made of metal, would need a spare tire, how much more for us human beings?" he said.

Duterte's marriage to his first wife, whom he has three children, was annulled in 1998. He has a common-law wife, and they have one daughter. 

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