Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is once again stirring up controversy — this time for kissing a woman on the lips while speaking to a crowd in South Korea.
His audience was largely made up of Philippine workers, according to the BBC. The president called one woman onto the stage and, as video footage from the event reveals, convinced her to kiss him in exchange for a copy of the book Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church by Aries Rufo. “Are you single? You’re not separated from (your husband)? But you can tell him that this is just a joke?” Duterte reportedly asked her as the crowded screamed.
The woman appeared a little flabbergasted, but not unwilling. When she finally kissed him, the crowd broke into cheers.
“Don’t take it seriously,” Duterte told his audience. “It’s just for fun, a gimmick.”
The woman has been identified as Bea Kim, Reuters reports, an overseas worker from the Philippines. Kim later told Philippine media that there “wasn’t malice” in their exchange.
“For me, for him, it didn’t mean anything,” she added. According to CNN, a spokesperson for Duterte later said the kiss was “act of endearment.”
But not everyone saw it that way. Women’s rights groups have been quick to condemn Duterte’s actions. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros opined that the kiss was a “grave abuse of authority.” Joms Salvador, secretary general of the political advocacy group Gabriela Women’s Party, told Reuters that Duterte’s attempt to entertain his audience by kissing a woman was “something really sick.”
This is not the first time that Duterte has been accused of sexist behavior. He has urged soldiers to shoot women rebels in the vagina, cracked jokes about enticing visitors to the Philippines with “42 virgins,” and said that he would congratulate anyone with the “balls” to rape a Miss Universe contestant.
Women’s rights advocates in the Philippines recently launched a social media campaign called #BabaeAko (I am a woman), which encourages women to push back against’s the president’s open misogyny. Below, watch footage of the kiss and hear the reaction of some people in the Philippines who were appalled by Duterte’s kiss and others who brushed it off as innocent.
— Reuters TV (@ReutersTV) June 4, 2018