01:01 - Source: CNN
Duterte distances himself from rape remarks apology

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Philippines presidential candidate backs away from apparent apology on gang rape comments

He has been under fire for his remarks about the gang rape and murder of an Australian missionary

His party issued an apology Tuesday, but Rodrigo Duterte later disowned it

CNN  — 

A Philippines presidential candidate under fire for his comments on gang rape has disowned an apology issued by his party and vowed he would “never really apologize” for the remarks, CNN Philippines reports.

Pressure has been building on front-running presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte since he made a joke in connection with the rape and murder of an Australian missionary during a 1989 hostage crisis in Davao City during a campaign rally on April 12.

After days of balking at calls for him to say he was sorry for the comments, Duterte finally seemed to repent Tuesday, when a statement was issued by his political party, PDP-Laban, with an apparent apology, CNN Philippines reported.

“I apologize to the Filipino people for my recent remarks in a rally. There was no intention of disrespecting our women and those who have been victims of this horrible crime,” read the statement.

But asked about the statement later in the day during an appearance in Iloilo City, the 71-year-old seemed to back away from it, according to CNN Philippines.

“Don’t force the issue because I will never really apologize,” he said, according to a CNN Philippines translation of his comments.

He said he knew nothing about the statement of apology released by his party, and said the offensive remarks had been uttered in a burst of anger at the criminals.

Philippines presidential candidate apologizes for rape joke

‘Let it bring me down’

Duterte had joked about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary that took place in Davao City, in the country’s southeast, where he is mayor, CNN Philippines reported.

“I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first. What a waste,” he said, according to a CNN Philippines translation of the comments, which appeared in a YouTube video over the weekend.

He had made the comments during a campaign rally on April 12. And for days, Duterte balked at calls to apologize for his rape comments.

“If it brings me down, let it bring me down. If it brings me up to the presidency, then well and good. I will serve you, but I will not as a matter of honor apologize for (it),” he told reporters.

Australia: Don’t trivialize rape, murder

Duterte’s initial comments referred to an incident at Davao City jail during his first term as mayor when inmates took 15 church workers hostage – including the Australian lay minister. The Australian embassy in the country was critical of his comments on Facebook: “Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized.”

His comments drew heated criticism from his political rivals in the upcoming May 9 presidential election, which one recent poll tipped him to win.

Jejomar Binay, current vice president and presidential candidate, said that Duterte didn’t deserve to be elected to the country’s top job: “Rape and murder of a woman is not funny at all. Mister Duterte, don’t you have a mother? Don’t you have daughters? Your statement is simply revolting.”

“Rape and murder of a woman is not funny at all. Mister Duterte, don’t you have a mother? Don’t you have daughters? Your statement is simply revolting.”

Known for being outspoken, it’s not the first time Duterte has made inflammatory statements. He has pledged to execute more than 100,000 criminals if he’s elected, according to local media.

CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout contributed to this report.