MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang said that outrage over President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial kiss with a married overseas Filipina worker is unwarranted because the lady "was honored" by it.
"The lady who was kissed has clearly expressed that she was honored with the kiss," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines on on Monday, June 4.
Roque, who was in Seoul as part of the presidential delegation to South Korea, also quoted an interview with the OFW, Bea Kim, who said she believed "there was no malice" in Duterte's kiss. This, said Roque, should appease those who have expressed disgust with the act.
"It was not an issue to the woman so it was not an issue to the President," said the spokesman.
The next day, during a press conference, Roque said there was nothing immoral with the kiss because the President is single. When a reporter pointed out that Kim is married, the spokesman said she had "volunteered" hence Duterte was in the clear.
"I don't think there is anything immoral. After all the President has reiterated he is single (Reporter heard off-cam: But the woman is married.) But the woman volunteered and the woman said she was very proud of that experience," said Roque.
Duterte is not currently married but has a longterm partner, Honeylet Avanceña, with whom he has a teenage daughter.
On Monday, he also claimed that the thousands of Filipinos present at the Sunday gathering also visibly "appreciated the act."
Describing Duterte's kiss on the lips as "playful" and a "light moment," Roque claimed a "majority of Filipinos" likely did not take offense with it.
"I believe that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos continue to support the President and found the kiss a light moment that is very accepted in the culture of Filipinos," said Roque.
Many netizens who watched videos or saw pictures of Duterte's kiss had a different reaction – they expressed outrage and noted lack of propriety and the President's abuse of power.
Gabriela called the kiss a "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist president who feels entitled to demean, humiliate, or disrespect women according to his whim."
Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, in a statement, described the act as a "despicable display of sexism and grave abuse of authority."
She said that though Kim consented, it was not a meeting on equal terms.
"Uneven power relations were clearly at play. And President Duterte took advantage of that severe power disparity," said the lawmaker. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.