Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is current amid a national crisis after his declaration of martial law on the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday in order to combat advancing Islamic extremists fighting under the ISIS flag. The controversial president’s decision to bring his national military to bear on a domestic front seems justifiable, but has raised concerns among many that worry they may be seeing a recurrence of the same methodologies employed by Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, who declared martial law in 1965.
Despite concerns levied by political opponents of Duterte and the rapidly developing situation in the southern region of his nation, the Philippine President demonstrated an objectively inappropriate level of joviality when taking questions from the media on Friday. At one point, he even made a joke about the possibility of his troops committing rape against the citizens living under martial law.
“The consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just do your jobs, I’ll take care of the rest,” he told his soldiers via the press on Friday.
He then warned his troops not to commit human rights violations before joking, “I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three (women), I will say that I did it. But if you marry four, son of a whore you will be beaten up.”
This is not the first time Duterte has made international headlines for his crass statements regarding rape. Duterte rose to prominence within the Philippines rapidly, running for president after only holding office as the mayor of Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao. During one of his campaign rallies, Duterte drew criticism from within his country and without after being recorded joking about the rape and murder of a 36-year-old Australian lay minister, Jacqueline Hamill, as well as fourteen others during a hostage situation that occurred during his first term as mayor.
All the women were raped so during the first assault, because they retreated, the bodies they used as a cover, one of them was the corpse of the Australian woman lay minister. Tsk, this is a problem. When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”
When referring to the “Mayor” that “should have been first,” Duterte was referring to himself.
Despite the political turmoil Duterte’s jokes are sure to illicit, he still has the more pressing matter of combatting what he calls a “wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi.”
The Philippine president says he is committed to the fight against the Muslim extremists formerly known as the Maute, under the leadership of Isnilon Hapilon, who declared his group’s allegiance to ISIS in 2014. However, Duterte says he is willing to open lines of communication with the group as well.
“If they want to talk, I will be most thankful to Allah that we talk about peace,” Duterte said Friday. “If they insist on fighting, we can’t do anything. Go for it and you have my full support.”
There are currently 200,000 people living amid the fighting between Philippine forces and the Maute/Islamic State. The declaration of martial law in the region will remain active for sixty days, barring any further executive decisions to extend or expand it.
“If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people,” Duterte said in a news conference on Wednesday.
Among Duterte’s critics, the expansion of martial law seems a possible, and worrisome, possibility.
Image courtesy of CNN