MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's story of him touching a maid's private parts was nothing but a tall tale, claimed Malacañang on Thursday, January 3, after facing intense backlash.
"Exact words of the President when he told me, 'That's a concocted story to dramatize the hypocrisy of the person I was referring to,'" said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo during a Palace news briefing.
Duterte had supposedly intended for the story to highlight the abuses of priests in his hometown of Davao City, sometimes perpetrated during the confession of young male students.
As far as Panelo is concerned, Duterte was "initiating discourse."
"Maybe we need a President like this who will create these controversial remarks for the people to know and find the truth," he said in Filipino.
But it was not so much church abuses but Duterte's own treatment of the maid in the story, where he peeks under her blanket and molests her, which outraged many.
Another lawmaker, Alliance of Concerned Teachers Representative France Castro, and Gabriela Women's Party have demanded for the President's resignation.
Panelo spent a bulk of the press conference downplaying the harms that may have been caused by Duterte's story, whether or not it was made up.
He denied such remarks from the Chief Executive would promote violence toward women, saying the story was even intended to make listeners laugh. (READ: Not just a joke: The social cost of Duterte's rape remarks)
"I do not think so because precisely it was dramatized in such a way that audiences will laugh, but even then, the message is not lost on the listeners. They got the message even if he said it in a way that makes them laugh," said Panelo in Filipino.
As for the impact on minors hearing the President talk about molesting household help, Panelo is optimistic that children likely did not even understand the story.
"First, minors have parents who understand and the parents will explain to them. Secondly, if you are referring to elementary, I don't think they will understand that," said Duterte's spokesman.
He then denied that the story was even lewd to begin with.
"Hindi naman mahalay 'yung kwento niya eh. Kung mahalay, ang reaksyon ng audience, magagalit sa kanya (His story is not even lewd. If it were lewd, the audience's reaction would have been anger)," said Panelo.
The Palace spokesman and chief presidential legal counsel even went on to say that his own maid supposedly was not angered by Duterte's story and that it is only the "ultraconservatives" who found it inappropriate. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.