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Philippine Presidential Candidate Threatens to Cut Diplomatic Ties with US

FILE - Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte talks to the media before boarding his flight for his hometown of Davao city in southern Philippines.

Rodrigo Duterte is favored to win the Philippine presidential election in May, and if he does, he says he is ready to cut ties with the United States and Australia – two of the country’s closest allies.

The warning came after ambassadors from the two countries criticized Duterte for a joke he made about the rape and murder of a missionary during a jailhouse riot in 1989.

“If I become president, go ahead and sever [diplomatic ties],” Duterte said during a campaign event Wednesday night. He previously told the ambassadors to “shut their mouths” after they initially expressed outrage about his joke in which he said he should have been first to rape the missionary.

Duterte was mayor of Davo, a major city in the southern Philippines, at the time of the prison riot. He recounted the incident at a recent campaign event where he also promised to kill thousands of criminals.

"They raped all of the women... there was this Australian lay minister... when they took them out... I saw her face and I thought, 'Son of a bitch. What a pity... they raped her, they all lined up," he said. "I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first."

The comments drew sharp criticism from both U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorley, who said the comments trivialize serious issues like rape and murder, which should never be joked about.