Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is under fire for planting a kiss on the lips of a Filipino woman during a live event.
Duterte was on an official meet-and-greet event in South Korea on Sunday night when he asked an unidentified audience member to kiss him in exchange for a book he was handing out.
The woman, who appeared excited to see Duterte in person, agreed. Duterte then told the cheering crowd of about 3,000: “Don’t take it seriously. It’s just for fun, a gimmick.”
Feminists have denounced Duterte for his “perverted ways”, though many Filipinos thought the kiss was just harmless fun.
The 73-year-old, who has been labelled a misogynist by his critics, has made numerous controversial remarks about women, including jokes about rape.
Women’s rights advocates in the Philippines recently launched an online #BabaeAko (I Am A Woman) campaign to send a message that they were not taking Duterte’s “sexist” statements sitting down.
“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.”
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said that even though the kiss was consensual, it was a “grave abuse of authority”.
Anna Pinili, a churchgoer who considers herself a devout catholic, said Duterte had good intentions, but could have handled it better.
“He should have kissed her on the cheeks instead,” she said.
Father of two Raymond Pascual said people were making too much of a deal of it, and he thought it was just a “simple kiss”.
Making the rounds also on social media was a spoof photo of the same kiss, but with the woman replaced by superimposed image of China’s President Xi Jinping, in an attempt to poke fun at Duterte’s high regard for his Chinese counterpart.
State-run Philippine News Agency identified the woman as married Bea Kim and posted a brief video interview with her on its Facebook page.
“There wasn’t malice in it,” she said. “For me, for him, it didn’t mean anything.”