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Palace defends Seoul kiss; group calls Duterte 'unethical'

SEOUL. This presidential photo taken on Sunday, June 3, 2018, focuses on the audience as President Rodrigo Duterte kisses Bea Kim on the lips in exchange for a book. (Presidential Photo)

MALACAÑANG on Monday, June 4, defended President Rodrigo Duterte after drawing flak for kissing a married Filipino woman in Korea, describing the President's gesture as a mere "playful act" that is "very (much) accepted in the culture of Filipinos."

Duterte earned criticisms when he kissed an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), identified by state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) as Bea Kim , during his meeting with the Filipino community in Seoul, Korea on Sunday, June 3.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte meets with the Filipino community - Part 3

Part III President Rodrigo Roa Duterte meets with the Filipino community in South Korea on the 1st day of his Official Visit to the Republic of Korea on June 3, 2018. A crowd of more than 2,000 Filipinos are expected to meet and greet the President. There are about 66,000 Filipinos working and residing in South Korea. #DuterteKorea2018 #ComfortableLifeForAll #PartnerForChange

Posted by Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines) on Sunday, June 3, 2018


Kim, on the sidelines of Duterte's public engagement in Seoul, told the PNA that there was "no malice" in Duterte's request to give her a smack on the lips.

"There's no malice. The kiss was just like a twist to make the audience giddy. It had no meaning, I promise. For him, for me, it's nothing," Kim, who is married to a South Korean national with whom she has two children, said in a video uploaded by the PNA.

Roque echoed Kim's remark, saying that there was "no offended party" in Duterte's latest act and stressing that the woman was even "honored with the kiss."

"Well, I think the kiss is what has made the President very popular amongst our people. Obiously, there is no offended party here," Duterte's mouthpiece said in a television interview.

"It's a playful act. There was no malice in it. The woman made it clear that she didn't think there was malice in it. It was all intended as a light moment and let's leave it at that," he added.

It was not new for Duterte to kiss women on the lips. To recall, the then Davao City mayor also stirred controversy when he kissed at least two of his female supporters in a political sortie in San Fernando, Pampanga in February 2016.

However, it was the first time Duterte did such gesture since he assumed presidency in June 2016.

Kim granted Duterte a kiss in exchange for a book titled "Altar of Secrets," which exposed the supposed wrongdoings in the Catholic Church.

But Roque merely described the kiss as "an act of endearment intended towards all OFWs."

"It was not an issue to the woman, so it was not an issue to the President. And if you were there, the Filipino community appreciated the act. It was an act of endearment intended towards all OFWs," the Palace official said.

"I believe that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos continue to support the President and found the kiss a light moment that is very much accepted in the culture of Filipinos."

Duterte's act was denounced by several netizens and his critics, including women's alliance group Gabriela.

Gabriela, in a statement released earlier Monday, described the act as a "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist president who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrepect women according to his whim."

Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas called the act "unethical."

In a statement, Brosas said the President's act showed that he does not have respect for women.

"Unethical po ang ginawa niya bilang pangulo on national tv mismo. Nagpapakita ito ng paggamit sa posisyon niya bilang Presidente mysoginistic in character and walang respeto sa kababaihan," she said.

Brosas said the President should be mindful of his decision.

She added: "But overall, I think wag ilihis ang problema ng mga kababaihan sa mga ganitong gimmick sagutin ang krisis na kinakaharap ng mga kababaihan at ang dapat na ipromote at gawin ng pamahalaan ay respect and equality for our women at yon ang harapang niyurakan ng Pangulo." (With Keith A. Calayag/SunStar Philippines)

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