Duterte kiss during South Korea visit draws disgust

Opposition senator says the president's action 'was a despicable display of sexism and grave abuse of authority'.
Duterte is on a three-day official visit to South Korea, home to about 65,000 Filipinos. / Internet photo
Duterte is on a three-day official visit to South Korea, home to about 65,000 Filipinos. / Internet photo

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has drawn sharp condemnation from politicians and women's rights activists after he asked a woman to kiss him on the lips, as hundreds of his supporters watched and shrieked during a public event in South Korea.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday said what Duterte did during his visit to Seoul "was 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," Hontiveros said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.

"President Duterte acted like a feudal king who thinks that being the president is an entitlement to do anything that he pleases."

The incident took place on Sunday in the South Korean capital during the first day of his three-day official visit. He was scheduled to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday.

At Sunday's event, which was also attended by several senior Filipino officials, including the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Cayetano, Duterte spoke about his administration's effort to protect Filipino workers abroad.

Towards the end of his speech, he invited two women from the audience to receive a copy of a book critical of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

"This will cost you a kiss," Duterte said in Filipino. "Are you ready for a kissing scene? You watch out."

The two women then approached the president on stage, and as a sign of gratitude after receiving the book, both of them kissed the president's right hand, before attempting to leave.

But Duterte called them back, saying he wanted another kiss. The first woman gave him a kiss on the cheek and he gestured to the second woman to kiss him on the lips.

"Are you single?" Duterte was heard as saying before kissing the woman, who at first hesitated and covered her face.

In a statement posted online, the Gabriela women's alliance said the kiss was a "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist president who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim".

Lorraine Marie Badoy, the undersecretary for New Media and External Affairs for Duterte, said in a Facebook post: "Factor in his humanity, his feet of clay into all that greatness and in the end, the sum total is how he moves our country forward. That's the kind of love I understand. And appreciate."

Agencies

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