Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pauses during his third State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Manila, Philippines Monday, July 23, 2018. Picture: Aaron Favila/AP Photo.

Manila - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was criticised on Friday for sending a "very dangerous and distorted message" that women are raped because they are beautiful.

Duterte, who has been slammed for joking about rape in the past, was defending his claims that he had eradicated crime in his southern home city of Davao during a speech in the central province of Cebu on Thursday.

"They said that Davao had many rape cases," he said. 

"For as long as there are many beautiful women, there are plenty of rape cases as well."

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the statement should not be taken seriously since Duterte was known to make jokes.

"I don't think we should give too much weight on what the president says by way of a joke," he said, adding that people outside of the northern region of Luzon usually have a "different sense of humour" and "don't really take things as seriously." 

Gabriela, a women's rights group in the Philippines, warned the "the latest flamboyant display of misogyny" by Duterte places more Filipino women at risk of rape.

"President Duterte sends yet again a very dangerous and distorted message in his latest rape remark, that a woman's beauty is a cause of rape," the group said in a statement.

"A person who finds pleasure in the mass killings of innocent people and who finds humor in demeaning women and enabling rapists is not fit to be president," it added.

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