Duterte jokes about ‘42 virgins’ to promote tourism

President Rodrigo Duterte disembarks from the Philippine Airlines chartered flight PR001 upon his arrival at the New Delhi International Airport in India on Jan. 24, 2018.

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte, who had been criticized for casually talking about rape, joked that he would like to lure tourists to the Philippines with virgins during his last day in India.

Speaking to Indian and Filipino businessmen Friday, Duterte claimed that Islamic State extremists lure followers with the promise of “42 virgins” in heaven.

“The come-on is that if you die a martyr, you go to heaven with 42 virgins waiting for you. If I could just make it a come-on also for those who’d like to go to my country,” he said.

Radicalized militants who commit acts of terror, having themselves killed in the process, are believed to be promised 72—not 42—virgins in paradise. Quran scholars, however, dispute the interpretation.

Duterte, after declaring himself “half-Muslim,” suggested in jest that the ISIS does not have monopoly of making promises about virgins.

“And I said, one of the most is promising virgins when you go to heaven. I’d like to have the virgins here, not in heaven. God may not allow it,” the chief executive said.

His remarks elicited soft laughter from the crowd.

Individuals and groups both at home and abroad have previously blasted Duterte for his remarks which they said “normalized” and “encouraged” objectification, rape and other forms of violence toward women.

In June last year, president joked about congratulating anyone who had the balls to rape a Miss Universe candidate despite knowing the punishment before diplomats.

Duterte, when he was still campaigning for the presidency, talked about an Australian lay minister rape victim whom he described as beautiful. The then-mayor was heavily denounced for saying that he should “have been first.”

At the height of the fighting in Marawi City, the president told soldiers that he would answer for the consequences of military rule in Mindanao, including cases of rape by soldiers.

Officials of the president’s office usually dismiss such remarks as instances of “sarcasm” or part of the president’s supposed humor.