Philippine President Criticised For 'Forced' Kiss With Married Woman

It's been labelled as the "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President" by a Filipino women's rights group.

What you need to know
  • Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte kissed a married overseas Filipino worker at an official event exchange for a book
  • It's been slammed as "a disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President" by a Filipino women's rights group
  • The woman insisted to state media that there was "no malice" in the kiss
  • A presidential spokesperson has brushed it off as "a playful act"

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticised as sexist for kissing a Filipino woman on the lips during an official event in South Korea.

The highly controversial leader singled out the married woman from the crowd at an event on Sunday night, giving out a copy of a book on alleged corruption in the Catholic Church.

"No men, the price for this is a kiss," he told the crowd, which was mostly made up of female overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

Two women took  the stage, and while Duterte kissed one of them on the cheek, he indicated that he wanted to kiss another on the lips.

"Are you single?" he asked her, reports AP, to which the woman replied she was married. "You're not separated? But can you tell him that this is just a joke?"

Duterte then told the cheering, 3,000-strong crowd: "Don't take it seriously. It's just for fun, a gimmick."

The woman was later identified by state media, the Philippine News Agency, as Bea Kim, who said that there was "no malice" in the kiss.

But it has been slammed by critics as deeply sexist and a distraction from bigger issues around his presidency.

"It was a despicable display of sexism and a grave abuse of authority," said Senator Risa Hontiveros. "President Duterte acted like a feudal king who thinks that being the President is an entitlement to do anything that he pleases."

Women's rights group Gabriela also slammed the kiss as "a disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President", adding that it was "unfortunate" that Kim "found it her obligation to publicly defend the act as 'no malice'."

"Such acts of President Duterte is only intended to divert the people from the real and pressing issues of the country. His repeated acts of machismo is meant as entertainment to hide the reality of his rapidly slipping popularity due to the issues of extra-judicial killings, the TRAIN Law and the big-time corruption scandals now plaguing his rule," said Secretary General Joms Salvador in a Facebook post.

"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."

However, presidential spokesperson Harry Rogue said the kiss was just "a playful act".

"The lady who was kissed has clearly expressed that she was honoured with the kiss," he told CNN Philippines on Monday night.

"There was no malice. The woman made it clear that she didn't think that there was malice in it. It was intended as a light moment, let's leave it at that. It was not an issue to the woman so it was not an issue to the president.

"And if you were there, the Filipino community appreciated the act. It was an act of endearment intended towards all OFWs."

Duterte has previously come under fire for multiple jokes about rape. His comments -- made to soldiers in 2017, joking that they were legally allowed to rape three women -- were slammed as "sickening" by human rights groups.