President Rodrigo Duterte has never had any misgivings about cracking misogynist jokes, but yesterday he went a step further, proving that he also has no qualms about cracking them in times of national calamity.
His latest indiscretion: while visiting the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption, he told a group of officials that he had forgotten his “many problems” thanks to Batangas’ bevy of “beautiful women.”
“I have so many problems. When I was in the helicopter, I was thinking about a lot of things, but when I arrived here, it disappeared,” Duterte said in English and Filipino during a meeting with government officials at the Batangas Provincial Sports Complex in Batangas City yesterday.
“Really, I love beautiful women,” he added.
This isn’t the first time the president has gotten “laughs” at women’s expense. Last year, he cracked a real knee-slapper about how Davao City’s rise in rape cases was owed to its “many beautiful women.” Then, about two years back, while at a business forum in India, Duterte managed to be disrespectful to both women and Islam simultaneously, joking that if “42 virgins” in heaven were enough to motivate suicide bombers, then he could also tout Filipino virgins as a “come-on” for tourists.
And if that wasn’t hilarious enough, back in 2016, shortly before he became president, he joked to a crowd at a campaign rally that he had been angered by the case of a “beautiful” Australian nun who was raped and murdered back in 1989 — because as mayor, he should’ve been first in line for the raping, amirite?! (HA! Good one, Rody!)
His spokesman has come to his defense amid accusations of sexism, saying feminists are overreacting and should “just laugh” at Duterte’s jokes. (Yeah, baby, why so serious? You know, you’d be pretty if you smiled more.)
Before the latest sleazy remark, the president explained that he hadn’t been able to immediately visit the victims of Taal because he was unable to fly out of his hometown of Davao City due to the volcano’s ashfall. Duterte managed to arrive in Manila only on Monday morning, but, ever the hero, he insisted on visiting Batangas because people were mired in a crisis.
“I’m sorry I was not around. I was in Davao. But I was preparing to leave that night, [but] I was informed that I could not make it because of the ash. So early morning, I insisted that I have to be here because there is a crisis, and I forced the airplane [to fly here]. They did something about the runway, they made it wet so that there was less ash that would be seeping into the equipment of the plane,” he said.
Meanwhile, Duterte also congratulated the local government for its “splendid response to the crisis,” which he said had resulted no casualties so far.
“I am very satisfied, I said, with the response of everybody, [and with] the fact that no one was killed and that there’s nobody really sick,” the president said. Duterte added that he felt bad about Batangueños who were “covered in ashes like zombies…I pity them.”
However, at least one road mishap has been attributed to the disaster: in Calamba on Monday a truck driver was killed and three people were injured while they were reportedly driving in “zero visibility” because of Taal’s ashfall.
In a bulletin released this morning, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said that Taal has displayed “generally weaker” activity in the past 24 hours.
However, alert level 4 (5 being the highest, indicating a full-blown eruption) still remains in effect, and the ongoing eruption has sent a dark gray ash-laden plume about a thousand meters into the sky. The PHIVOLCS also said there were almost 1,700 tonnes of sulfur dioxide spewing from the volcano each day.
PHIVOLCS also observed that large cracks in roads have emerged in several towns in Batangas since yesterday. It said that the cracks are signs that magma is still rising in Taal. The agency has recorded a total of 446 earthquakes from the volcano as of 5am today.