Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has claimed he molested a maid while in high school – comments his spokesman later said were “made up.”
During a speech Saturday about land distribution, Duterte – a notoriously freewheeling speaker – described the assault in detail after straying into the topic of religion, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.
Duterte claimed he told a priest in a confessional that he went into the maid’s room and reached under her blanket, according to a transcript of the remarks, made in a mixture of Tagalog and English, posted on the Philippines Presidential Communication Office’s website.
However, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told CNN Philippines in a statement that Duterte made up the comments because he was goaded on by the priest to confess to something.
Duterte also said that the priest touched him during the confession – something he said “every child goes through” – according to CNN Philippines.
Panelo said Duterte was using a “laughable anecdote” to “dramatize the fact of sexual abuse that was inflicted on him and his fellow students when they were in high school.”
“He purposely added and spliced the story with vulgarity to characterize the behavior of the priest who insisted to hear more sins during their confessions when there were none,” Panelo said.
Duterte, himself a Catholic, has been deeply critical of the church, especially when it comes to the sexual abuse scandal that has roiled the Vatican.
The Philippines leader has long been known for his unvarnished, impolitic style, but some of his more profane comments have landed him in hot water.
Duterte has compared himself to Hitler, although he later apologized for the remark. He also called former U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and told him to “go to hell”, and joked about the gang rape of an Australian missionary.
But his crass comments about the Catholic Church have gotten him into trouble with voters. The Philippines is a staunchly Catholic country, with more than 80% of the population identifying as Roman Catholic.
In June, Duterte promised to mend fences with the country’s Catholic community after calling God “stupid” in a speech. His previous presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, attributed the comments to Duterte being molested by a priest in high school.