Spokesman said kiss was ‘accepted in culture of Filipinos’

SHORTLY after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte publicly kissed a married overseas foreign worker (OFW) in Seoul, South Korea, consequently drawing both cheers and disgust — he returned to the Philippines to defend his kiss and said he’d resign as president if enough women wanted him to.

“If there are enough women to… Well I think if all women here would sign a petition for me to resign, I will resign,” said the president at a media briefing on Tuesday, June 7, upon returning from South Korea.

Duterte, somewhat of a political rockstar to supporters in the Philippines and abroad, further defended himself by saying kissing women was his “style” that had been apparent even during his 22 years as Davao mayor.  The problem, he said, was that people didn’t know him.

“That is my style.  Find your own style.  There is nothing wrong in a simple kiss — you cause an uproar,” he said, adding that critics were “just jealous.”

“During my campaign in my mayorship days, I kiss every woman there, lips to lips,” he said.  “The problem is you don’t know me.”

He also said, “You women, it’s better if you just help me explain to them that it was just natural.”

On Monday, June 4, presidential spokesman Harry Roque defended Duterte by deflecting attention to the woman who he said enjoyed the kiss.

“The lady who was kissed has clearly expressed that she was honored with the kiss,” said Roque.  “It was not an issue to the woman, so it was not an issue to the President.”

On the issue of morality, he said, “I don’t think there is anything immoral.  After all, the President has reiterated he is single.”

When a reporter pointed out that Bea Kim — the woman kissed — was married, Roque countered by again saying she did not retract.

“But the woman volunteered and the woman said she was very proud of that experience,” said Roque.

Kim is married to a South Korean national.

Roque also said the kiss was accepted in Filipino culture, while describing it as “playful” and a “light moment.”

“I believe that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos continue to support the President and found the kiss a light moment that is very accepted in the culture of Filipinos,” Roque said.

Duterte’s approval ratings in the country continues to be high.  His administration received a satisfaction rating of +70 from the Social Weather Stations last December — up to “excellent” from his September level of “very good.”

Like Roque’s remarks, many have justified the kiss by saying the kiss was consensual.

In the video, Kim appears to be excited in meeting Duterte who after handing a book to Kim and another woman, points to his lips while talking Kim into kissing him and asking her if she was single.  

Kim later told state-run Philippine media that there was “no malice” in the kiss.

“For me, for him, it didn’t mean anything,” said Kim.

Whether consensual or through pressure, critics of Duterte say the act exemplified male chauvinism and abuse of power.

Senator Risa Hontiveros described the stunt as a “despicable display of sexism and grave abuse of authority.”

“Even if the act was consensual, it was the president, possessed of awesome, even intimidating, power, who initiated it,” said Hontiveros.  

“Uneven power relations were clearly at play.  And President Duterte took advantage of that severe power disparity,” she added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned Duterte’s appropriateness at the event and said, “Obviously, they accomplished the purpose, based on the laughter and giggle from the women in the audience.”

“Question is — does that make it right and appropriate?” he asked.  “I don’t think so, if we consider the status of both parties.  The woman is married to a Korean, the man is a president of the Philippines who is on a state visit to Korea.  If it was a movie comedian onstage, people won’t mind at all.”

‘#BabaeAko’

Duterte’s controversial kiss and following comments come as the #BabaeAko (I am a woman) campaign grows online in response to his string of ill remarks — many of which have been quoted within the last month.

Earlier in May, he said of International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde:  “Alam mo ‘yan si Lagarde, makita ko ‘yan si… Just pull her into a corner, halikan mo lang, putang ina, mag-iba ang isip niyan.”  (“You know, that Lagarde, I once saw her… Just pull her into a corner, kiss her, son of a b***h, she will change her mind.”)

A couple weeks after, he was quoted comparing his wives from his first and second marriage to spare tires.

In Visayan, he said, “I have a second wife.  I have one child with her.  So I have two wives.  If a vehicle, which is made of metal, would need a spare tire, how much more for us human beings?”

During a speech at Malacañang Palace a week before the South Korea incident, Duterte dismissed comments of him being anti-women by saying, “I am not rude.  Don’t believe those female critics of mine.”

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