MANILA – Hundreds of mostly women demonstrators rallied in the Philippine capital on Monday to mark International Women’s Day, and took aim at the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte for alleged rights abuses against women.

Protesters smashed an effigy of Duterte with sledgehammers during a demonstration near his residence in Manila during which women’s activists denounced him for what they called abusive security policies.

“We are facing a virus far deadlier than COVID and it is the rotten, anti-people, pro-foreign interest, and macho-fascist presidency,” said Joms Salvador, Secretary General of Gabriela, a prominent women’s organisation in the Philippines.

Duterte is known for his informal speeches and often uses profanity and threats of violence, offending some Filipinos, but also endearing him to many, including women.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has infuriated women’s groups, who call him a misogynist after he made jokes about rape on several occasions.

Duterte recently said he had told his politician daughter not to run for president to succeed him, because it was no job for a woman.

But in a statement on Monday, Duterte said his government could “proudly claim that concrete, sustainable, and inclusive actions” had been taken to create a better environment where women’s rights are respected.

“Let us elevate women to their rightful place in society by empowering every Filipina to break not only the barriers that have long hindered them … but also the backward mindset that fuelled a culture of gender oppression and inequality,” he said. — Reuters