MANILA - (UPDATED) A women's group on Monday slammed what it deems was President Rodrigo Duterte's "perverted way," after the chief executive kissed a Filipina on the lips during his meet and greet with Filipinos in South Korea.
Gabriela said the kiss was "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim."
Duterte, who was in Seoul for an official visit, was distributing books during the meet and greet when he called on the woman to receive a copy of a book, with a kiss on the lips in exchange. He then told the crowd that it was only a "gimmick" to lighten the mood.
The unidentified woman, who is married and has two children, had been filmed saying she found no malice in the president's action.
Gabriela said it was "unfortunate that the woman found it her obligation to publicly defend the act as 'no malice.'"
"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," Gabriela said.
The left-leaning women's group said such acts from the president was meant as "entertainment" to divert the attention from Duterte's "rapidly slipping popularity."
"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," it said.
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino also called the chief executive a "DOM" or a dirty old man often portrayed in movies.
"Pinagtatawanan natin yan sa pelikula, maraming characters na ganiyan, pero pag presidente ka, dapat di ka komedyante, hindi komedyanteng DOM ang asta," he told reporters.
"Siguro ang audience tinatrato lang yang form of entertainment, nakakatuwa, but ang may pangunahing kasalanan diyan si Pangulong Duterte mismo. Di naman niya dapat ginawa yung ganun," he said.
Former Senator Rene Saguisag urged the President to be a better role model to the youth who might be witnessing his actions.
"Kung ginagawa yan, nakikita ng kabataan. They'd think it's okay. To me, that’s a very bad example for children and grandchildren. A president should never take the low road.”
Activist nun Sr. Mary John Mananzan added, neither the woman nor the audience could have stood up to the President, and that's why it was all too wrong.
"Halimbawa, umatras siya, sinampal niya. Di ba sakin there is definitely a question of power here. Talagang yung babae, helpless, she cannot really refuse kasi may power relationship yan eh," she said.
"Yung gallery na ganyan, do you expect them to be critical? I don't think so. Do you think anyone of them will dare? To me, a critic, that’s not realistic.”
Mananzan, formerly the president of a Catholic all-girls school in Manila, said she's "so sick and tired" that Duterte has no regard for decorum expected of a President during a public appearance.
"That is so against yung decency, yung ano ba yung a formal appearance of a president in a formal gathering. That is not called for sa akin," she said.
“Ang mahirap kasi we are getting numb kasi laging ganun ang ginagawa niya, para tayong ano na numb na tayo that's another one of his antics," she said.
The exchange between Duterte and the unidentified woman triggered negative reactions from several netizens, many of whom found chief executive's actions unbecoming of a President.
This was not the first time Duterte publicly kissed women from the audience in events he has attended. Back when he was still a presidential candidate, the then-Davao mayor kissed at least two of her female supporters in a political sortie in San Fernando, Pampanga.
- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News