Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is no stranger to backlash. His brutal war on drugs and crime has been blasted by various human rights organizations, who estimate him to be responsible for thousands of execution style deaths.
During an event where he was giving a speech to an assembly of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Seoul, South Korea, Duterte invited to female audience members up onstage with him. He gifted the two attendees with free books, but also provided them with a different opportunity. The first woman received a hug and a kiss on the cheek, but the second was beckoned to kiss him on the lips.
The nervous fan appeared unsure what to do for a time. After an awkward, dragged out scene, the president eventually got his wish. The woman let him kiss her, giggling afterwards whilst the crowd cheered.
The woman has since been identified as Bea Kim. Kim recalls the President asking her if she was single and replying that she has a South Korean husband. She described the physical display of affection as having “no malice,” and that it didn’t “mean anything except to entertain and make other Filipinos in the gathering happy.”
Women’s rights organization and leftwing political group Gabriela denounced Duterte’s actions and the overall event, declaring “His repeated acts of machismo are meant as entertainment to hide the reality of his rapidly slipping popularity due to the issues of extrajudicial killings, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law and big-time corruption scandals now plaguing his rule.”
Various netizens also expressed their distaste via social media. Many felt that Duterte was asserting his power in a creepy and imbalanced way, and that the woman was in no position to refuse his sexual harassment.
I don’t know what’s worse? The kiss from duterte hitler reincarnate himself? Ate girl acting kilig? The crowd cheering like a bunch of morons? All of the fucking above? https://t.co/0SHy97QI4C
— camie juan (@camiejuan) June 3, 2018
Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Pres. Duterte kissing an OFW in Seoul: It was 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
— Jam Sisante-Cayco (@jamsisante) June 4, 2018
What’s more disgusting than Duterte kissing a woman at a gathering of overseas Filipinos in Seoul is the fact that the crowd cheered him on. That’s how you encourage sexual abuse. Hindi komo’t presidente tama ang ginagawa, at hindi talaga lahat ng OFWs bagong bayani.
— Bakla With A Cause 🏳️🌈 (@jonasbagas) June 3, 2018
To be a woman under Duterte’s gaze is to be a piece of meat, an object of desire, a sexual conquest, never a citizen with equal standing in political life. https://t.co/w6YjFFvYD2
— Nicole Curato (@NicoleCurato) June 3, 2018
You're probably the most pitiful filthyass miserable rat with the slightest sense of decency like Duterte if you'd even think of defending what's on this photo LOL https://t.co/zjEYm26CJO
— SMDC SIETE (@keiakamatsu) June 3, 2018
Duterte has also come under fire for making rape jokes in his speeches. To a group of soldiers, he once boasted, “I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three [women], I will say that I did it. But if you marry four, son of a whore, you will be beaten up.”