Duterte kiss sparks debate
Video grab shows President Duterte kissing Bea Kim during a meeting with the Filipino community in South Korea on Sunday night.
Duterte kiss sparks debate
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2018 - 12:00am

SEOUL – It’s no secret he likes beautiful women. So perhaps it wasn’t really a big surprise when President Duterte planted a kiss on the lips of a female supporter during the gathering of members of the Filipino community here Sunday night – a kiss that elicited rousing applause from the crowd but caused some raised eyebrows.

A self-confessed womanizer, Duterte first demanded a kiss from two women who rushed to the stage to get a copy of the book “Altar of Secrets” that he has been giving out to illustrate what he says is the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.

Duterte asked the woman if she was single.

“Hindi po (no sir),” the woman replied, saying she has a boyfriend. Reuters has reported that she is married.

“Kaya mong sabihin kung biro lang, kahit dito (Can you say it’s for fun, even here),” he said, pointing to his lips.

The girl was visibly overwhelmed and replied, “Ok lang po.”

The kiss capped the more than two-hour speech by the President before the excited crowd, who waited hours just to see him at the convention center of the Grand Hilton Hotel.

Another female supporter, who got the sole copy of the book written by the late journalist Aries Rufo, planted a kiss on Duterte’s cheek. 

In the middle of the program, Duterte narrated how he was once cornered by his daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, whom he ranks as the most beautiful woman between his first wife Elizabeth Zimmerman and current partner Honeylet Avanceña.

Duterte told Sara that he ranks his children first, all being beautiful and second, that all his partners are beautiful, along with the mother of an upcoming “sibling.”

It was not clear whether Duterte was joking, but he went on to say that he was asked if he will be having another child. He later kept mum about it, changing the topic.

He also enjoined his supporters to be part of a new religion he is putting up – Iglesia ni Rodrigo. Its only mission: “Make yourself happy, you only live once.”

Women’s group complains

The militant women’s group Gabriela assailed Duterte for that kiss.

Gabriela secretary-general Joms Salvador referred to the act as “disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim.”

“It is unfortunate that the woman found it her obligation to publicly defend the act as ‘no malice,’ when it is the President who is duty-bound to explain not only because it was upon his prodding but he is bound, as a public official, by rules of ethics to explain his unruly conduct,” Salvador said.

The group also pointed out, “It is also his own perverted way of getting back at his women critics, his way of proving he can dominate women at any time and any place he chooses. It is his way of publicly exhibiting his contempt for women.”

Sen. Risa Hontiveros branded Duterte’s kissing a Filipina in Seoul as “a despicable display of sexism and grave abuse of authority.” 

She said Duterte “acted like a feudal king who thinks that being the President is an entitlement to do anything that he pleases.”

Malacañang downplayed yesterday the criticisms caused by Duterte’s kissing “gimmick.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said even the female supporter, Bea Kim, as identified by government-owned Philippine News Agency, put no malice on the kiss.

“But mostly positive or neutral. Lady involved also said there’s no malice in the kiss. Watch her in PNA video,” Roque said. 

Reuters reported that the woman, who later admitted that she is married and appeared excited to see Duterte in person, agreed.

Duterte then told the cheering crowd of about 3,000: “Don’t take it seriously. It’s just for fun, a gimmick.”

PNA identified the woman as Bea Kim and posted a brief video interview with her on its Facebook page.

Before ending his speech during the meeting, Duterte in jest said he would give a book in exchange for a kiss and specifically asked for women in the audience. 

Duterte asked the audience present to not take the kiss seriously, saying it was “just a gimmick” to make the people happy.

Even if it was with consent, women’s group Likhaan yesterday criticized Duterte for the kiss.

Junice Melgar of Likhaan said a decent head of state should keep a professional distance and should not use his power to take advantage of women.

Duterte, she said, should have restrained himself from kissing the woman even if she wanted to kiss him.

A group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) yesterday expressed fear that the kissing incident will have a negative effect on how OFWs will be treated by their employers.

Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesman, said foreign employers may no longer treat Filipino workers with respect because even the President himself abuses Filipino women in public. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Rhodina Villanueva, Paolo Romero, Reuters

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