Palace: Kiss was President's 'act of endearment' toward Filipino workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) — The Filipina who was kissed by President Rodrigo Duterte onstage in South Korea came to his defense amid criticisms against his "misogynistic" actions.

The woman, who identified herself as Bea Kim, on Monday said there is no malice involved when Duterte kissed her on the lips in front of the Filipino community in Seoul, South Korea.

"Walang malisya 'yun. Ginawa lang namin yung kiss parang twist lang 'yun, pampakilig sa mga audience. Walang ibig sabihin 'yun, promise," she said in an exclusive video posted by the government's news site, Philippine News Agency.

In the video posted by government media PTV on Sunday, it was shown that Kim was called up on the stage alongside another Filipina so Duterte can give them a book in exchange for a kiss. The women took Duterte's hand and put it to their foreheads, doing the customary "mano" or "amen" to show respect to one's elders before moving to leave the stage. Duterte then asked for a beso [cheek kiss] from one of the women, but pointed to his lips when it was Kim's turn. The crowd cheered when they kissed.

national with two daughters, explained how she felt when she came face-to-face with the Philippine President during his official visit to South Korea.

"Parang na-block ako. Hindi ko ma-explain na parang kinakabahan ako, natatakot ako, excited, thankful. Happy ako kasi it's a once in a lifetime experience kasi 'yun. Kahit nasa Pilipinas ka, parang suntok sa buwan na makita mo nang malapitan ang president," she said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also downplayed the President's actions.

"I think the kiss is what makes the President popular among our people...And of course, we have our traditional critics, and it's the same critics who are going to town against what happened," Roque told CNN Philippines' News Night on Monday.

Roque said the kiss was Duterte's "act of endearment" toward the Filipino workers.

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

However, a women's alliance group said it wasn't up to Kim to explain the actions of the President.

"It is unfortunate that the woman found it her obligation to publicly defend the act as "no malice", when it is the President who is duty-bound to explain not only because it was upon his prodding but he is bound, as a public official, by rules of ethics to explain his unruly conduct," GABRIELA Alliance of Women said in a statement on Monday.

It said Duterte's antics was the "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim."

GABRIELA said Duterte did the act to publicly exhibit his contempt for women.

"It is also his own perverted way of getting back at his women critics, his way of proving he can dominate women at any time, and at any place he chooses," it said.

It added these acts from the President are meant to divert the public from pressing issues such as the extrajudicial killings and the rising prices of basic goods due to TRAIN law.