MANILA (UPDATE)—President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday brushed aside criticism for kissing a married Filipina in public during his official visit in South Korea.
“What is your question? About the kissing? Ah, we enjoyed it! It was ‘showbiz’ and everybody enjoyed it,” the President said of his kiss with the woman identified as Bea Kim.
He added he would not have kissed Kim in public if “there was malice” in it.
“I would pull the woman down somewhere along an empty hall [instead],” he said.
Justifying his act, Duterte also noted it was not the first time he kissed a woman in public.
“You know, I’ll tell you what. There are people here from Davao, during the campaign in my mayorship days, I kissed every woman there, lips to lips,” he said during a press conference at NAIA upon his arrival from South Korea.
“Not only smack. Other women really wanted ‘romance.’”
Duterte also lashed out at his critics, saying “inggit lang kayo (you are just envious).”
“That’s my style. Find your own. There’s nothing wrong in a simple kiss,” he said.
The President has a common-law wife, Honeylet Avanceña. They have a daughter, Veronica. His marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman, mother of his three children — Paolo, Sara, and Sebastian — was annulled in 2000.
Duterte did not address a question on what he thought Avanceña felt upon learning of the kiss, appearing offended that the matter was brought up.
“Tanong iyan ng mga pervert. Why do you have to dwell on kissing? Sabihin mo na lang . . . Next question,” he said.
Duterte added: “I could only generate an emotion if I kiss a woman I love. Any [kiss with another] stranger is pure ‘showbiz.’ ”
But the President admitted the incident may have caught the ire of is “second daughter”, referring to Veronica.
“I expect my second daughter to say something about it in front of me. That’s why I don’t want to go home now. I will let things cool down,” he said.
The Palace has described Duterte’s action as a “light moment” and a “playful act” that is accepted in Filipino culture.
Duterte’s gesture has been met with criticism, with some saying what happened was still wrong even if it was consensual.
Bea Kim said she did not feel violated by the kiss, but critics said this still does not excuse the President’s actions.
“A person in power, [especially] a President, who solicits sexual favor--a kiss on the lips--before a hooting throng is acting inappropriately. The misconduct? Misuse of power, the [Office of the President]. It's what sexual harassment is all about. He shouldn't have placed her on the spot,” said former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.
Women’s rights group Gabriela, meanwhile, said the kiss was "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim."
Gabriela said it was "unfortunate that the woman found it her obligation to publicly defend the act as '[without] malice.’"