Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has denounced Chelsea Clinton as he tried to defend a "joke" he made about his troops raping women.

The controversial president - who has overseen the murder of thousands of drug users and has now declared martial law as he fights an ISIS insurgency - used Clinton's father's affair with Monica Lewinsky to attack the former first daughter.

Chelsea joined a chorus of condemnation of Duterte's remark that his soldiers could rape up to three women each and he would "take responsibility" after declaring martial law in the city of Marawi.

Chelsea Clinton's tweet.
Chelsea Clinton's tweet.

Duterte said today: "These whores, they hear 'rape'. Like, like Chelsea, she slammed me. I was not joking, I was being sarcastic. Listen to the speech. I do not laugh at my own jokes.

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"I will tell her, when your father, the president of the United States, was f***ing Lewinsky and the girls in the White House, how did you feel? Did you slam your father?"

The former first daughter had tweeted "Not funny. Ever" in reaction to the news of Duterte's remarks on rape.

In a second post she wrote: "Duterte is a murderous thug with no regard for human rights. It's important to keep pointing that out and that rape is never a joke."

Duterte's troops are locked in battle with Isis fighters in the city of Marawi in the south of the country.

Amidst the fighting that has forced 50,000 people to flee, teenage Isis fighters are said to be shooting people dead for failing to quote the Koran.

Duterte declared martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao last week, home to roughly 20 million people, in response to the crisis as he warned that local militant groups were uniting behind ISIS and becoming a major security threat.

Shortly after declaring martial law, he told his troops in a speech: "For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible.

"Just do your work. I will handle the rest. I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three (women), I will say that I did it."

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That remark was met with widespread condemnation, and yesterday Duterte tried to defend himself.

At the end of a long speech to naval officers and their families, Duterte said he was just being sarcastic as he took aim at people who criticised his rape remarks but particularly Clinton.

He then accused American soldiers of raping women in the Philippines and Japan, without giving details, before returning to Clinton.

"It is a crime actually committed by soldiers, mostly Americans in Okinawa," he said, referring to several rape cases involving US servicemen stationed in Japan, most recently last year.

"But, we never heard of a Filipino. But I am just warning them that anything they do, I have to answer for it. I take full responsibility for your foolishness. I speak sarcastically.

"You Americans, like Chelsea, be careful because you live in a glass house," he said.

"I repeat, when President Clinton was f***ing Lewinsky, what was your statement or your reaction?"

It was not the first time Duterte has made a joke about rape.

He caused outrage in the lead-up to his presidential election win last year when he recalled a 1989 prison riot in which an Australian missionary was killed, and inmates had lined up to rape her.

In what was intended as a joke, Duterte said the victim was "beautiful" and as mayor of Davao city where the riot took place, he should have been first in line. He later apologised and said he meant no disrespect to women or rape victims.

The Australian and American ambassadors to Manila voiced their disapproval at those comments, but Duterte reacted furiously then while insisting he had been taken out of context.

Monica Lewinsky embraces President Bill Clinton as he greeted well-wishers at a White House lawn party in Washington November 6, 1996. Photo / AP
Monica Lewinsky embraces President Bill Clinton as he greeted well-wishers at a White House lawn party in Washington November 6, 1996. Photo / AP