Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reportedly admitted to sexually abusing his maid when he was a teenager.
Duterte, a controversial figure known for his inflammatory remarks about women and sexual violence, made the admission during a Saturday speech in Kidapawan City, ABS-CBN News reported.
The 73-year-old Duterte was recalling a confession he gave to a Catholic priest during his high school years. He said he told the cleric that he’d snuck into his maid’s room as she slept and had “lifted the blanket” and “tried to touch what was inside the panty.”
“I was touching. She woke up so I left the room,” Duterte said, according to local news outlet Rappler.
He told the priest that he’d then gone to the bathroom for the “usual” — assumedly a reference to masturbation — before returning to the maid’s room and attempting to “insert my finger.”
Duterte made the remarks about the alleged sexual assault as part of a tirade against the Catholic Church, Agence France-Presse reported.
He told the crowd that he and his friends were molested by priests when they were youths. Duterte has previously alleged that a priest sexually abused him when he was a teenager.
In his Saturday speech, the president warned the Catholic Church ― an influential institution in Catholic-majority Philippines ― to not “meddle too much” in state affairs.
On Sunday, women’s rights political party Gabriela called for Duterte to resign over his “repulsive” remarks about the alleged sexual assault.
“This latest confession has brought shame not only on himself but on the entire nation that trusted him to lead judiciously and righteously. He has proven himself unworthy of his position and should resign,” the party said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Alliance of Concerned Teachers called Duterte’s confession “disgusting.” And workers’ rights groups have warned that the president’s comments could potentially put women, particularly domestic workers, at risk.
As AFP noted, more than a million Filipinos work abroad as domestic workers.
“Normalizing this despicable behavior is very dangerous for all domestic workers, here and abroad, and for all women, in general,” a spokesman for labor rights group Sentro told Rappler.
Duterte has sparked outrage in the past for his flippant remarks about sexual violence.
In August, he came under fire for suggesting that the alarming rate of sexual assault in his hometown was due to a large number of attractive women who live there.
“They say there’s a lot of rape happening in Davao. If there are a lot of pretty women, there would be a lot of rape,” he said.
In 2016, Duterte, then a presidential hopeful, joked about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary in Davao City, saying that as the jurisdiction’s mayor, he should’ve been “first” in line.
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