Last night, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte gave a two-hour speech to the Filipino community in Seoul, South Korea. Before ending it, he gave out books to the audience, including a Filipina worker who he kissed on the lips. Ew.
While Duterte was offering the last copy of Altars of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church by Aries Rufo, he said that he’ll give it in exchange for a kiss. “‘Wag lalaki, may bayad ‘to halik.” (I don’t want a man, there’s a payment, a kiss.) He then called on two Filipinas on stage who accepted the book, and looked excited to meet the president.
When they were about to leave, Duterte asked for the kiss as payment. One Pinay kissed him on the cheek, but he gestured the other to kiss him on the lips. But before that happened, he had this conversation with the woman:
Duterte: Dalaga ka? (Are you single?)
Woman: Hindi po. (No.)
Duterte:Nandito? (Is your husband here?)
Woman:Wala po. (No.)
Duterte:Hindi naman kayo hiwalay? (You’re not separated?)
Woman:Hindi po. (No.)
Duterte:Pero kaya mong sabihin na mag-kiss tayo? (But is it okay that you tell that we’ll kiss?)
A few seconds later, Duterte kissed the woman on stage and the crowd was cheering them on. He later said that it’s only a “gimmick” to lighten the mood. But before that, he said that he wants to start a religion named “Iglesia ni Rodrigo.” Here, he said, “Walang limit, may obligasyon ka sa sarili. (There’s no limit, you have an obligation only to yourself.) Make yourself happy.”
Are you still with us or are you a ball of cringe already?
First of all, asking a woman to come up on stage and kiss you isn’t entertaining at all. You are asserting your power and dominance on a woman in a public setting. It also shows that you don’t care who the woman is and whether they’re married or not, you will do what you want because, like you said, you believe in “no limit” and to “make yourself happy.” Even at the expense of a woman’s vulnerability.
Also, can’t the man take a hint? Duterte shouldn’t have made the woman kiss him the moment she told him she was married. But no, he asked for a smooch on the lips. It didn’t help that the crowd egged them on.
ABS-CBN News also reported that the woman “found no malice in the president’s action.” And to quote women’s group Gabriela, “[It’s] unfortunate that the woman found it her obligation to publicly defend the act as ‘no malice.'”
This type of behavior is unacceptable, especially for a high-ranking public official, and it shouldn’t be excused in any way. It also doesn’t help that presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the act as “very [much] accepted in Filipino culture.” (As a Filipino, I do not claim this inappropriate behavior as part of my culture.)
The more we give a pass to it, the more that it’s going to happen to other women in the future. Do not be an enabler to such gross and misogynistic actions. Also, our president needs to check his macho ego before it blows up in his face.