PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has offered to resign if enough women protest his onstage kiss with an overseas worker in Seoul, South Korea.
“We enjoyed it. It was a showbiz (thing) and everybody enjoyed it,” Duterte told reporters upon his arrival back in Manila on Wednesday. “I do not do it in public if there is malice… I think if all women here would sign a petition for me to resign, I will resign.”
The kiss sparked controversy after the women, Filipino Bea Kim, appeared to resist the president’s advances, initially telling him that she had a husband so could not kiss him.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) June 4, 2018
The 73-year-old grandfather, however, persisted until Kim consented. The mostly Filipino crowd at the event cheered them on in approval.
Duterte received instant criticism online. Research fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra, Nicole Curato, accused the president of seeing women only as “a piece of meat… a sexual conquest” and not his equal in politics.
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
The presidential palace defended the kiss saying there was “no malice” in his actions and the recipient was “honoured.”
“It was not an issue to the woman, so it is not an issue to the president,” said spokesman Harry Roque, as reported by Rappler. But many critics saw it as typical of the president’s derogatory behaviour towards women.
“We’re really supposed to believe that Duterte’s kisses are without malice with the way he shamelessly and publicly comments on women’s body parts and/or tells women to close their legs because it’s distracting him?,” one Twitter user said, referencing Duterte’s previous sexist remarks.
We’re really supposed to believe that Duterte’s kisses are without malice with the way he shamelessly and publicly comments on women’s body parts and/or tells women to close their legs because it’s distracting him?
— Nk. (@dailygasms) June 6, 2018
Duterte is known for his off-the-cuff string of derogatory remarks that have flagged concern with women’s rights activists. In February he ordered soldiers to shoot female rebel fighters “in the vagina.”
During his election campaign in 2016, speaking about the 1989 prison riot in which an Australian missionary was killed and inmates had lined up to rape her, Duterte joked he wished he had the opportunity to rape her himself.
“Was I mad because of the rape? Yes, that’s one. But, she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste,” he said.
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His provocative approach, rather than lose him support, is often seen as part of his appeal. The firebrand president is showing no signs of changing his approach. In response to Sunday’s kiss and the following uproar, he said:
“That is my style. Find your own style. There is nothing wrong in a simple kiss – you cause an uproar. They are just jealous.”
He added that he expected his two daughters, one with his former wife and another with his current partner, to confront him about the incident. “You women, it’s better if you just help me explain to them that it was just natural.”
Additional reporting by AFP.