Philippine presidential candidate holds firm over rape remark

Rodrigo Duterte says he regrets his comments regarding an Australian woman murdered and raped in 1989, but refused to apologise for being misinterpreted.

Rodrigo Duterte

The Philippines’ leading presidential candidate has caused a storm after apparently making a joke about a murdered Australian rape victim, but has refused to apologise for his comments.

A video surfaced on YouTube over the weekend of presidential hopeful, Rodrigo Duterte, making comments at a recent rally about Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill.

She was working in a prison in the city of Davao in 1989 - Duterte was mayor at the time - when she was raped and murdered during an inmate riot.

The video shows Duterte saying Hamill was a "beautiful" woman and inmates "all lined up" to rape her, but as mayor he "should have been first". Supporters at the rally laughed at the comments.

Duterte's remarks have provoked outrage on social media from Filipino citizens and politicians. Yet his outspoken views, particularly on crime, have him leading the polls ahead of the country’s presidential election on May 9.

In response, Duterte gave an interview yesterday saying he regretted his "gutter language", but would not apologise as he was simply retelling the events of 1989 and not making a joke.

"It was not a joke. I said it in a narrative. I wasn't smiling," Duterte said.

"I'm sorry in general. I'm sorry to the Filipino people, it's my style, it's my mouth, I said it in anger - listen to the story behind it."

Current president Benigno Aquino’s spokesperson said the comments showed Duterte’s "lack of fitness for the presidency", while Duterte’s closest presidential rival, Grace Poe, slammed his words as "distasteful and unacceptable".

Despite this and other condemnation, several people remain supportive of Duterte and have risen to his defence online.

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