Empower women, Duterte tells Miss Universe hopefuls

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered a speech without his usual swearing on Monday, telling dozens of Miss Universe contestants they should advance the empowerment of women.
The firebrand leader normally makes rambling, off-the-cuff speeches peppered with curses and threats to kill criminals. He has insulted several world leaders including former US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis.
But he was on his best behaviour on Monday, welcoming more than 80 Miss Universe contestants to the presidential palace in the capital, Manila. The Philippines will on January 30 host the pageant for the third time. “I usually do not read my speeches, I’m not up to it really, but this time … they told me that I must behave in my language,” he told the women.
Duterte’s critics have accused him of being sexist and disrespectful towards women. On one occasion, he commented publicly about the length of the vice president’s skirt and her knees.
He was widely condemned during his election campaign for making a boorish comment about the rape and murder of an Australian woman missionary in 1989.
On Monday, he urged the contestants to use the pageant to “advance women empowerment to a greater audience”. “This is chance for you to make an impact, to inspire change, and even be the change that you wish to see in the world,” he said.
The reigning Miss Universe is Filipina-German Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, the third winner from the Philippines. The competition’s live broadcast on January 30 is expected to draw half a billion viewers worldwide, organisers have said. — Reuters