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All the president's women: Duterte's fiercest critics and a surly political heir

All the president's women: Duterte's fiercest critics and a surly political heir
From Reuters - September 14, 2017

DAVAO, Philippines/MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has a problem with women, says the woman who has known him longer than perhaps any other: his sister Jocellyn.

Hes a chauvinist, she told Reuters in a recent interview. When he sees a woman who fights him, it really gets his ire.

Then Jocellyn ran through a list of Dutertes female critics that included his vice president, 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 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 profanity-laden reactions to women critics, seem to have dented his popularity among Filipinos.

The 72-year-old president is a self-confessed womanizer who once told a large gathering of local officials, I cant 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 womens 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 countrys influential Catholic Church.

In a recent statement, even Human Rights Watch - a fervent critic of the drug war - acknowledged Dutertes 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 Manila-based pollster Social Weather Stations.

While foreigners frown at Dutertes rape jokes, says Gina Lopez, a former environment secretary in Dutertes male-dominated 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 above-board, very decent, she told Reuters.

She said this decency also once extended to Vice-President 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, said Lopez. Thats what men do, right?

In a statement to Reuters, the presidents office called Duterte an advocate of womens rights who had launched a massive campaign against gender bias while mayor of Davao.

As president, it added, he had hand-picked the best and brightest women for his cabinet. Three of the countrys 25 cabinet secretaries or ministers are women.

RELUCTANT DAUGHTER

Duterte spends up to four days a week in his far-flung 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.

Dutertes 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 Dutertes venom is reserved for women who oppose him.

ANYTHING BUT SUBMISSIVE

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