Gabriela party-list Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte's latest rape joke conveyed "yet again a very dangerous and distorted message."
Mr. Duterte told his audience in Mandaue City on Thursday night that rape cases were high in Davao City because his hometown had many beautiful women.
"We strongly condemn this latest flamboyant display of misogyny, which places more women at risk of rape," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.
But Malacañang called on the public not to take the President's jokes seriously amid the backlash over his remark.
"I don't think we should give too much weight on what the President says by way of a joke," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.
Supportive of women
He said Mr. Duterte was supportive of women, citing the recent appointment of Teresita Leonardo-de Castro as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
People in the south, Roque said, "don't take things as seriously as people in Luzon."
"Some may not approve but I can tell you this: there's a difference between the sense of humour in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao," he said.
Mr. Duterte, he said, is "mature enough" to know the limits of his off-colour humour.
De Jesus and Brosas said the President "toys with Davao pride and misogyny" to gloss over the fact that women in his hometown suffered the most number of rape cases in the country.
They lamented that sex crimes such as rape continued to be committed against Filipino women "because of the rapist mentality being perpetrated by no less than the President."
"This latest theatric only confirms one thing: President Duterte is proud to have rolled back whatever gains and legal mechanisms that have been instituted for women's rights in Davao City," they said.
Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said Mr. Duterte's gag was intended to blame rape victims while escaping accountability for the failure of the authorities to protect women in the city.