MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte meant no malice when he kissed a married woman onstage in front of the Filipino community in South Korea, his top legal counsel said Wednesday.
"It was just like kissing an apo (grandchild)," Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told ANC, adding that he's seen women kiss Duterte during the campaign for the 2016 elections.
Panelo said the woman, as a fan, wanted to kiss Duterte, and the President just kindly obliged. He stressed even the girl said it was just for fun.
The woman, identified as Bea Kim by the Philippine News Agency, said in a Facebook video that there was no malice in the kiss.
"The kiss was, to my mind, an endearing kiss coming from a fan...If the woman did not want it, she wouldn't have done it. But she did it willingly and excitedly. She was tickled pink. She was tickled pink," said Panelo.
"Tayo mapanghusga tayo e. Siguro dapat maging broadminded tayo," he added. (We're too judgmental. We should be broadminded.)
The lawyer said when Duterte came down from the stage, many people also kissed Duterte. For him, the "lovable and charming" President was just acting like a caring father to the nation.
"The President is the father of the nation. A father should be caring to his people. And he showed that. Unang-una, siya ang hinalikan," said Panelo. (The woman kissed her first.)
Asked if he thinks Duterte took advantage of the situation to kiss the woman, Panelo said no. He said the President was just giving the woman what she wanted.
"I don't think that was taking advantage. I think that was giving in to something that particular lady wanted, to show her tenderness to the President. The President also shared the same tenderness to her and caring," the lawyer said.
The kiss has been criticized by several groups, with some saying it is anti-women. But Panelo defended Duterte, saying the President showed care for women when he offered himself as hostage in exchange for the freedom of a woman back in 1989.
"Sabi nga ni Presidente, 'Sino nga ba ang lalaki ang nagpa-hostage just to save a woman? Ako lang 'yun, walang ibang gumawa noon sa Pilipinas.' O e di hindi siya anti-woman," said Panelo.
The controversial kiss happened last Sunday after Duterte's 2-hour speech before the Filipino community, where he lambasted the Catholic Church.
The President called the woman from the crowd to receive a copy of a book titled "Altar of Secrets," which exposed supposed corruption in the Catholic Church, in exchange for a kiss.
When the woman was about to go down, the President asked her to stay, and through hand gestures asked for a kiss on the lips after asking her if she could tell her husband it was just for fun.
On Tuesday the President also brushed aside criticism over the controversial kiss.
“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.
He noted that when he campaigned for mayor of Davao, there were many women that he kissed full on the lips.
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.
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