Women in the know say Duterte chauvinist
DAVAO/MANILA: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has a problem with women, says the woman who has known him longer than perhaps any other: his sister Jocellyn.
‘‘He’s a chauvinist,’’ she told Reuters in a recent interview.
‘‘When he sees a woman who fights him, it really gets his ire,’’ Jocellyn said.
Then Jocellyn ran through a list of Duterte’s female critics that included his vicepresident, a prominent senator who is now in jail and the head of the Philippines Supreme Court.
All three have sparred with Duterte after denouncing his brutal extrajudicial war on drugs, which has killed thousands of people in the Asian nation since he took office in June 2016.
Duterte has joked about rape, insulted the Pope and baffled friends and foes with often contradictory public statements.
Neither this, nor his profanityladen reactions to women critics, seem to have dented his popularity among Filipinos.
The 72yearold president is a selfconfessed womaniser who once told a large gathering of local officials, ‘‘I can’t imagine life without Viagra.’’
On the campaign trail last year, he joked about the gang rape of an Australian missionary who was killed in a prison riot. Speaking to Philippine troops in May, he said he would take responsibility for any rape they might commit.
But women’s rights advocates also praise him for handing out free contraceptives in his hometown, Davao City, where he was mayor for 22 years, and for championing a reproductive health Bill opposed by the country’s influential Catholic Church.
In a recent statement, even Human Rights Watch — a fervent critic of the drug war — acknowledged Duterte’s ‘‘strong support’’ for legislation aimed at protecting and promoting women.
After nearly 15 months in power, he remains highly popular with men and women alike, according to the latest survey by Manilabased pollster Social Weather Stations.
While foreigners frown at Duterte’s rape jokes, according to Gina Lopez, a former environment secretary in Duterte’s maledominated Cabinet, Filipinos judge him by his actions not his words.
‘‘When I see him dealing with women in the Cabinet or whatever, he has been very aboveboard, very decent,’’ she said.
She said this decency also once extended to Vicepresident Leni Robredo, who has publicly fallen out with Duterte. She is from an opposition party and was elected separately.
‘‘He really liked Leni. They got along and he was always flirting,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘That’s what men do, right?’’
In a statement, the president’s office called Duterte ‘‘an advocate of women’s rights’’ who had launched a ‘‘massive campaign against gender bias’’ while mayor of Davao.
As president, it added, he had ‘‘handpicked the best and brightest women’’ for his Cabinet. Three of the country’s 25 Cabinet secretaries or ministers are women.
Duterte spends up to four days a week in his farflung hometown Davao, ruling a nation of 100 million people not from the presidential palace in the capital, Manila, but from a modest house shaded by a jackfruit tree. Duterte was mayor of Davao for 22 years.
He sleeps until lunchtime, holds Cabinet meetings infrequently and sometimes announces major policies without forewarning senior officials, leaving them scrambling to catch up.
Duterte’s volatility has baffled Washington, which has long seen the Philippines as a bulwark against Chinese expansionism. He has courted Beijing and publicly berated the United States in rambling speeches.
Much of Duterte’s venom is reserved for women who oppose him.
In August, he called Agnes Calla mard, a United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, a ‘‘daughter of a whore’’ after she condemned the police shooting of a teenage drug suspect.
‘‘He’s a misogynist,’’ said Senator Leila de Lima, who spoke at a police detention facility in Manila.
De Lima was arrested in February on drugs charges she says were trumped up as part of a presidential vendetta. ‘‘To him, women are inferior,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s totally insulting to him that a woman would be fighting him.’’
According to Jocellyn Duterte, Duterte is also fighting with the woman he hopes will cement his political legacy: his daughter, Sara.
Sara Duterte reluctantly replaced her father as mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines when he became president. Father and daughter barely speak, Jocellyn said.
‘‘I know in his quiet moments he considers himself a failure as a father, because of Sara fighting with him,’’ she said.
Jocellyn said she had her own problems with her older brother but they now got along. They have two other brothers.
Jocellyn, who refers to the president as ‘‘the mayor,’’ said Duterte still ate the same simple food their mother, Soledad, once cooked: cheap fish simmered in vinegar.
She also traces Duterte’s authoritarianism to Soledad, who punished her children with a horsewhip or made them kneel at an altar for hours.
‘‘You can see that in the mayor,’’ Jocellyn said.
‘‘Sometimes people perceive it as arrogance or call it close to being a dictator. But we grew up in that atmosphere.’’
Their father, Vicente, also a politician, was often absent, and the young Duterte saw the bodyguards, police and soldiers around him as role models, his sister said. He grew up in a macho culture where wives and daughters were expected to be submissive, Jocellyn said.
His daughter, Sara, is anything but. In 2011, during her first term as Davao’s mayor, she was caught on camera punching a local official who angered her.
In 2016, Sara ran as mayor again, but only because she was ‘‘pressured’’ by her father’s supporters, she said. ‘‘If it were up to me, I would not have run,’’ she said.
She said she now only saw her father on special occasions, such as birthdays and Christmas, but denied they had differences. ‘‘He’s very busy,’’ she explained.
Duterte and his daughter have ‘‘a normal Filipino parentchild relationship which has its own share of ups and downs,’’ the president’s office said in its statement.
Like her father, Sara is blunt, downtoearth and thronged by admirers at public appearances in Davao.
She said she wanted to practise law and, once her threeyear term as mayor was up, had no wish or intention to continue in politics.
But in a country famous for political dynasties spanning many generations, Duterte wants his daughter to ‘‘preserve what the family has done for the city,’’ said Jocellyn.
‘‘He is trying to instil in Sara that it is our legacy,’’ she said. ‘‘Maybe she needs more time.’’ — Reuters
He’s a misogynist . . . To him, women are inferior
Senator Leila de Lima
Glamour by association . . . Filipino students take ‘‘selfies’’ with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, eldest daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, in Davao City, in southern Philippines, last month.
The punisher . . . A vendor sells souvenir items with images of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City, in southern Philippines.
Hand on heart . . . Philippines vicepresident Leni Robredo and President Rodrigo Duterte attend the 70th Philippine Air Force anniversary at Clark Air Base, in Angeles City, north of Manila, in July. At right, Jocellyn Duterte, sister of President Duterte, at an interview in Manila, this week.