Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte talks to the media before casting his vote for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao City, in southern Philippines, on May 9, 2016
Erik de Castro—Reuters
By Nash Jenkins
May 13, 2016

Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ outspoken President-elect, says he will visit the Vatican to personally apologize to Pope Francis, whom he described as a “son of a whore” after the Pope’s visit to Manila created traffic jams.

Duterte’s spokesperson confirmed the plans to reporters from several regional media outlets.

“The mayor repeatedly said he wants to visit the Vatican, win or lose, not only to pay homage to the Pope but he really needs to explain to the Pope and ask for forgiveness,” the spokesperson, Peter Lavina, told media.

Duterte easily won the election in the profoundly Catholic country earlier this week, owing in large part to his legacy as the tough-on-crime mayor of Davao City, but his campaign received more attention for his controversial commentary. Lavina justified his candidate’s remarks — which touched on everything from the Pope to victims of gang rape — by pointing to their populist appeal.

“You have to understand the Philippine style of elections,” Lavina said, according to the Singapore-based Business Times. (Duterte previously made a joke about burning the Singaporean flag.) “The context is most of our politicians need to communicate to our audience … Some make jokes, some make funny faces. Some dress outrageously.”

“So it is all in this context that all these jokes, bantering, happen during the campaign. We don’t expect the same attitude of our officials thereafter.”

Duterte has already apologized to Pope Francis in a letter; the Vatican responded by offering the “assurance of prayers” during his campaign.

The President-elect’s spokesman said that no date had been set for the trip, though it was a “top priority.”

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