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President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine strongman who has earned a reputation for dirty tactics and language, was criticized on Monday for having boasted that he had ordered soldiers to shoot female communist guerrillas in the genitals.
“Tell the soldiers, ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor,’ ” the president said in a speech, recalling a directive he said he had given when he was mayor of Davao City. “ ‘We will not kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina.’ ”
Mr. Duterte made the remarks in a speech to former rebels last week, but the comments went largely unreported because he was speaking in his native Visayan language.
He expressed exasperation that some women preferred joining the New People’s Army, a communist rebel force that has been waging an insurgency since 1969, to raising children.
Since Mr. Duterte’s remarks began circulating more widely, the criticism of his choice of words has been fierce.
It “is just the latest in a series of misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements he has made about women,” said Carlos H. Conde, the Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch. “It encourages state forces to commit sexual violence during armed conflict, which is a violation of international humanitarian law.”
Representative Emmi de Jesus of the Gabriela Women’s Party said that Mr. Duterte had, in effect, given the green light for soldiers to violate women’s rights. “He has further presented himself as the epitome of misogyny and fascism terribly rolled into one,” she said.
Recalling his reaction on seeing the woman’s body, he told a crowd: “I was angry because she was raped. That’s one thing. But she was so beautiful. The mayor should have been first.”
He has also used sexual jokes and rumors to attack women who have questioned his contentious and bloody war on drugs. His targets include Leila de Lima, a senator and former justice minister who has been a vocal critic of his.
Ms. de Lima is in prison awaiting trial on what she says are trumped-up bribery charges.
At hearings before her arrest, embarrassing details were disclosed of a romantic affair between her and the driver and bodyguard accused of collecting bribes on her behalf; the senator has described this as part of a campaign by the Duterte administration to harass and silence her.