Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte slammed over kiss | News | DW | 04.06.2018
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte slammed over kiss

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte kissed a Philippine worker on stage "just for fun." The move has prompted criticism from activists who say the president abused his power.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sparked outrage after he kissed a Filipino woman onstage during a visit to South Korea on Sunday.

Duterte called the woman on stage to give her a copy of a book at a town hall-style meeting with Filipino workers in Seoul.

When 73-year-old Duterte asked if she could explain to her husband that the antic was just a joke, and she said yes, the president leaned in and kissed her as the crowd of thousands erupted in cheers.

Read more: Opinion: Duterte breaks all rules

"Don't take it seriously. It's just for fun, a gimmick," Duterte later told the crowd.

The meeting was streamed live by the state-run TV network to the Philippines.

Critics have condemned the act, saying it is his latest macho antic degrading women.

'Despicable display of sexism'

Activists labelled the move as "disgusting" and one senator called the act "a despicable display of sexism and grave abuse of authority."

"President Duterte acted like a feudal king who thinks that being the president is an entitlement to do anything that he pleases," said Senator Risa Hontiveros, who asked the public not to judge the woman.

"Even if the act was consensual, it was the president, possessed of awesome, even intimidating, power, who initiated it," Hontiveros continued.

Read more: Will divorce finally be legalized in Philippines?

The state-run Philippine News Agency identified the woman as Bea Kim and posted a short video interview with her on its Facebook page.

"There wasn't malice in it," Kim said in the video. "For me, for him, it didn't mean anything."

A history of sexism

Duterte has made a number of derogatory comments about women in the past, including rape jokes and calling for women guerrillas to be shot in the genitals.

Read more: EU-Philippines economic cooperation — what about rights violations?

He has also publicly kissed women in the past, included at rallies during his campaign for the presidency.

Women's rights advocates in the Philippines have launched an online #BabaeAko (I Am A Woman) campaign to object to Duterte's "sexist" statements.

"You don't have to kiss that woman if you want to entertain people," said Joms Salvador, secretary-general of Gabriela Women's Party.

"The fact that you thought that kissing the woman would entertain people ... that's something really sick," she added.

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law/kms (AFP, AP)

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