Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman defended the leader on Monday after he received criticism for telling a sex-related joke at a Typhoon Vamco press briefing over the weekend.
Duterte at the meeting teased Presidential Adviser for Bicol Affairs Marvel Clavecilla for being an alleged womanizer while the two were in law school together, “to which Clavecilla replied that he was ‘undersecs,’ [meaning “undersexed”] a wordplay on his official title of ‘undersecretary,'” Philippine news outlet Rappler explained.
The joking took place live on air during a “post-calamity situation briefing” in the municipality of Pili, Camarines Sur province, on Sunday.
Vamco, called Ulysses in the Philippines, is the deadliest tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines so far in 2020. It was responsible for at least 67 fatalities as of Sunday. The Philippines is still reeling from Typhoon Goni, the world’s most powerful storm this year. Goni slammed the archipelago two weeks ago, killing 25 people and destroying thousands of homes.
“You can’t deny it from him because he was looking for a little break after the consecutive tragedies he saw from the calamities of places he visited,” Philippine Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque explained at a regular press conference on Monday.
“It’s the attitude of Filipinos that, though we may go through so much hardship, we still try to lighten our problems. So this is not just something only the President does,” he added.
“Let’s let it be. Let’s give our President a chance to have a light moment,” Roque advised.
Duterte at Sunday’s briefing said of Clavecilla in law school: “He spent all his time on [women], he got old. That really makes you old. Too many women – that really makes you old.”
Game for a pun, Clavecilla replied, “Congressman LRay Villafuerte told me I’m ‘undersecs.’ That’s why you should make me a Cabinet secretary so I’ll no longer be ‘undersecs.'”
In video footage of the banter shared online, others present at the meeting laugh at the joke.
According to Rappler, Duterte at the briefing “also implied that an official he knew had died of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] because he ‘lacked women’.”
Philippines, Philippines… where have I heard "Philippines" elsewhere this week? https://t.co/LrqI83JEsy
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Prior to visiting Camarines Sur on Sunday, Duterte stopped to assess damage from a “100-year flood” in Cagayan caused by Typhoon Vamco earlier in the day. Cagayan and Camarines Sur are both located on the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, home to the national capital, Manila.
Duterte in a nationally televised address on November 12, said he “wanted to ‘swim’ with the victims of the typhoon to supposedly share their agony but he claimed that his security aide and doctors are preventing him from doing so.”