Using some humor that is unique to the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte responded to critics accusing him of cronyism by saying he has “girlfriends” but not cronies.

Last Friday, the president was in Cotabato, a largely Muslim area in Mindanao in the southern Philippines, where damage from recent earthquakes has resulted in the need for government assistance to local farmers.

Duterte commented on his efforts to rehabilitate Boracay Island, a popular international tourist destination that he had once described as a “cesspool”. He said, “[Translated] Boracay used to be dirty. I had it rehabilitated. It’s now clean. But behind my back, many are talking, especially the rich people who are interested. ‘Duterte will give that to his cronies’.”

He continued, “[Translated] I do not have cronies. I have girlfriends. I do not have use for cronies I cannot hug those crazies. I have girlfriends. I don’t have cronies.” Duterte added that he has placed Boracay under land reform to dispel claims that he would give the island to cronies.

The Philippine humor stems from his comment about having girlfriends. In the U.S., a political figure who even hints at having an out of marriage relationship will see their career severely damaged, especially a president.

In the Philippines, husbands cheating on their spouses is widely accepted as normal. Men fathering children with as many women as they can charm into a relationship is common and viewed a badge of manhood. It is begrudgingly accepted by the women. This attitude is beginning to change but is still prevalent in poorer communities.

Aside from the humor, Duterte is likely to score political favor by using another well-known tactic: blaming rich people for problems in the Philippines. He said, “[Translated] To the rich, you know, (if) you have the social conscience, you won’t have any problem with me. By the mercy of God, I did not accept contributions from you during the election. I worked on a shoestring budget.”

Duterte has taken aim at some of the country’s top businessmen, accusing them of making deals that he described as “onerous” to enrich themselves at the public’s expense. He specifically named water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad and their government contracts and ABS-CBN, a Filipino media and entertainment group.

The president’s critics say the Duterte’s harsh criticism is an attempt to force their owners to sell the businesses to his cronies and/or friends. Malacañang officials have denied the allegation, saying the president is just against unfair deals and anomalies and is committed to ensuring a competitive economic climate.