Firebrand Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is never short of politically controversial statements. His latest was addressed to Filipino troops engaged in implementing martial law in the restive Mindanao region.

While reassuring them that they have his full backing, Duterte told the troops he is ready to bear the consequences of fighting the extremists. Then the foul-mouthed president went on to jokingly remark: "You can each rape three women and I will protect you." He also told the troops that they were free to arrest any person or search any house if necessary.

On 24 May, Duterte declared martial law in southern Philippines after intense clashes broke out between the Filipino military and the Maute group, an extremist organisation that pledged allegiance to the Isis. He had to abruptly cut short his trip to Russia and return to control the escalating situation.

The whole of the southern region of Mindanao is under martial law, bringing roughly one-third of the country or up to 20 million people under the emergency measure.

"Do not worry. I will join you. I will... If you go down, I go down. But for this martial law and the consequences and [its] ramifications, I and I alone would be responsible. I am here to say to you, fight and I will pray for you and I will answer for everything," Duterte told his military personnel.

He added that the doors for dialogue are still open if the extremists were ready to drop their arms. "If you cannot be convinced to stop fighting, so be it," Duterte said.

Philippines Marawi Isis Islamic State
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte salutes the honour guards as he arrives at Manila international airport upon returning from a visit to Russia Noel Celis/AFP