That Controversial Kiss Was Just a Kiss, President Duterte Says

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who drew censure after publicly kissing a female supporter on the lips Sunday in Seoul, said he found nothing wrong with the kiss and what he calls his brand of politics.

“It was showbiz and everybody enjoyed it,” Duterte said in a briefing at the Manila airport close to midnight upon his arrival from a three-day official visit to South Korea. “During the campaign in my mayorship days, I kiss every woman there, lips to lips.”

Hundreds of Filipinos who attended Duterte’s June 3 assembly cheered as the 73-year-old leader publicly kissed the woman, who’s married to a Korean. That widely circulated kiss drew criticism online and was described by Gabriela, a women’s advocacy group, as “disgusting theatrics” by a “misogynist president who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim.”

Talking About Women

Duterte isn’t a stranger to controversy regarding his comments on women. In April 2016 when campaigning for the presidency, he made light of the rape and murder of an Australian missionary. Earlier this year, he told his soldiers to shoot female communist rebels in the vagina so they will become useless.

These brash moves and accusations he had targeted at least two female critics by sending one to jail and ousting the other from the Supreme Court aren’t making much of a dent in his popularity. While his rating slipped 10 points in the first quarter, it remains “very good,” according to Social Weather Stations.

If "enough women" petition for his ouster, Duterte said he will resign. He’s previously offered to resign several times with conditions, including proving that his son was guilty of corruption or that he had a hand in the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The Philippine leader, during his midnight remarks, also warned of “radical changes” in coming days to maintain security and orderly governance. He didn’t elaborate on his plans yet hinted of emergency powers that also would allow him to revamp government.

He also said a plan to join with China for energy exploration in the South China Sea isn’t a violation of the Philippine constitution.

Duterte brought home from South Korea investment pledges worth $4.8 billion as well as $1 billion in financial assistance.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.