Duterte: I crack jokes but I respect women

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LOOK: Duterte opens Palace gates to women

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) — Pointing out that he himself has daughters, President Rodrigo Duterte says he holds women in high esteem even if some of his jokes had been deemed sexist and offensive by women's groups.

"Hindi ako bad boy talaga. Hwag kayong maniwala dyan... Kailan ba ako nambastos ng babae? Palabiro lang ako. I do not oppress women," Duterte told at a gathering of women in Malacañang grounds on Friday, capping off international women's month.

[Translation: I'm not really a bad boy. Don't believe that... When have I ever been rude to women? I am fond of kidding around, but I do not oppress women.]

Related: Duterte draws flak for rape 'joke'

The 72-year old president had drawn flak, here and abroad, for several of his remarks and behavior which were deemed demeaning to women.

However, Duterte had always maintained that his sense of humor didn't equate to disrespect for women. When asked about the matter during the presidential campaign period, the then mayor said Davao City was the first to come up with a women's code. He had also pointed out that local beauty pageant contestants were not allowed to wear swimsuits, only shorts or beach wear.

Last year, then president-elect Duterte was slammed for catcalling a news reporter during a media briefing. In November, the President found himself at the receiving end of criticisms again for his remark on the short skirt of Vice President Robredo.

Related: Robredo: 'Tasteless remarks' have no place in society

"May anak akong babae. Palabiro lang ako... Pero sa respeto sa babae (nariyan) [I have a daughter. I just like to tease... But the respect for women is there]," Duterte said on Friday evening.

He said he held women in high regard so much so that he had asked them to join his Cabinet.

"(I'm not what they call) a chauvinist pig," he said.

Women secretaries in Duterte's Cabinet include Leonor Briones for education, Paulyn Ubial for health, Wanda Teo for tourism, Judy Taguiwalo for social welfare, and Gina Lopez for the environment. The President also appointed a number of women to government posts, like Liza Maza of the anti-poverty commission, plus other female showbiz personalities.

CNN Philippines' AC Nicholls contributed to this report.