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MANILA — Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte sought to reassure soldiers who might be accused of committing abuses under martial law, joking that if any of them were to rape three women, he would personally claim responsibility for it.
Duterte is notorious for comments often deemed offensive and made the remark as a joke after saying that he would not tolerate abuses during military rule on southern Mindanao island.
He was speaking to soldiers on the island after imposing martial law Tuesday to try to crush ISIS-linked rebels who have been laying siege to a southern city.
"If you go down, I go down. But for this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible, just do your job I will take care of the rest," Duterte said Friday, according to a president's office transcript.
"I'll imprison you myself," he said, referring to any soldiers who commit violations, then he joked: "If you had raped three, I will admit it, that's on me."
It was not the first time Duterte has made a joke about rape. He caused outrage in the lead-up to his presidential election win last year when he recalled a 1989 prison riot in which an Australian missionary was killed, and inmates had lined up to rape her.
Duterte is known for his informal, no-nonsense style and his speeches are often loaded with profanity, threats and jokes about taboo subjects, which offend some, but are taken lightly by many Filipinos.
The president's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Duterte's latest remarks.
Duterte's pledge of support for troops comes as human rights groups and some lawmakers criticize his decision to declare martial law as excessive, and say it could lead to abuses by security forces.
He also joked that he would join soldiers in the fight against extremists if he could, but he had arthritis.