Philippines: Duterte Admits – at Typhoon Victim Event – to Staring at Vice President’s Legs

AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte complimented his vice president’s legs, admitting they were a distraction in many an official government meeting, during an event commemorating the victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda and updating survivors on government measures to help them recover.

“You know ma’am Leni would always wear skirts which are shorter than usual,” Duterte said of Vice President Leni Robredo, who appeared to blush and cover her face during the event. “At one time, [Finance Secretary Carlos] Dominguez asked me [to] come closer because I was far from them. But I told him, ‘Come here. Look at (Robredo’s) knees,’” he added.

“Maybe she noticed (that I was looking at her). I wanted to tell her, ‘Ma’am maybe next time you just wear shorts.’ … But after our third meeting, she was already there at the far end of the table. I lost the view during the Cabinet meeting,” he lamented.

Duterte also asked Robredo, a widow, if she “had a boyfriend,” to which the crowd laughed. He noted that his own marriage had been “annulled,” so he was free to stare at her. Robredo waved her hands as if to say, “No”:

As with most Duterte addresses, the typhoon speech was a mixture of humor and threats. Duterte decried the slow progress of the initiatives to rebuild Yolanda-affected communities and threatened to fire every local official if significant reconstruction progress did not occur by December. “I am not satisfied,” Duterte repeated numerous times, calling the slow development “BS.”

“We are such an underdeveloped country,” he lamented, blaming “the laziness and indolence of some idiots.”

Duterte has previously referred to Robredo’s beauty, joking that she was a distraction despite her political acumen. Speaking generally on one occasion, he joked that a female president would be difficult to listen to because “you will just stare at her because she’s beautiful. I keep looking at [Vice President Robredo] in the Cabinet meeting.”

“I’m sorry Leni, I hope, do not be offended, I am just shooting the breeze with these guys,” he said following that remark.

Duterte has repeatedly gotten in trouble for perceived sexist comments. As a presidential candidate, he drew international attention for joking about the gang rape of an Australian woman, lamenting that he was unable to bed her first. He has yet to apologize for that incident, including to the Australian ambassador to the Philippines. In a separate event at a business leaders’ meeting, candidate Duterte admitted to using Viagra and being a “womanizer,” before threatening to kill everyone in the room if they engaged in drug trafficking, leaving attendees baffled.

The Philippine Star notes that the supertyphoon left a trail of devastation throughout the country three years ago, and that more than 200,000 families are still homeless from that damage, most living in “makeshift shelters,” waiting for the government to deliver promised housing units. Vice President Robredo, who also runs the Housing and Urban Development Council (HUDCC), noted that in some areas, the government has not even begun to construct the housing developments it promised.