RELAX, folks. It may be kadiri seeing 73-year-old President Rodrigo Duterte summoning an excited woman to the stage in Seoul and cajoling her while everybody watched to kiss him on the lips, but Malacañang tells us that is now the new normal.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said kissing in public is part of Filipino culture (huh?), downplaying the outcry kicked up by that gross scene in South Korea. Worldwide, media carried the picture of Duterte with pursed lips poised for a smooch as if saying “come, kiss ka ni lolo!”
Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s groovy chief legal counsel, agreed that what happened Sunday in Korea was just “like a kiss to a grandchild.” The President himself said it was only a gimmick, presumably part of his idea of entertaining overseas Filipino workers.
His apologists and trolls said there was no malice in the President’s kissing the consenting woman, mother of two kids. One can only speculate if her Korean husband (and what about Duterte’s partner Honeylet Avanceña?) also saw it that way.
Among those in the mostly Filipino crowd gathered for President Duterte’s speech was Cil Borlaza, identified as an expat in South Korea on her final year for a PhD under a Korean government scholarship. She said Monday on Facebook:
“I don’t usually post politically-related stuff on social media but this was borderline traumatic for me. In his speech, our President used foul words so many times that I’ve lost count. He pulled perverted jokes several times (even used the word ‘libog’). He made remarks about pretty ladies who performed, as if bragging about his womanizing skills. He even kissed someone on the lips.
“This was extremely difficult to watch. But, it was heartbreaking to see my fellow countrymen cheering. Every curse, every perverted joke, every ‘papatayin ko talaga sila’ remark was received with applause and cheering.
“Mga kababayan, this is how far we’ve gone. This is how terrible our judgments have become. I’m utterly disappointed and disgusted. It’s painful to be represented by him. I wish Filipinos would have some amount of self-worth. This is not the kind of representation we deserve!”
Concern has been aired, too, as in the comment of former Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon who said on Twitter:
“To say that kissing a married woman on the lips is accepted in Philippine culture is putting our Filipino OFWs at risk of abuse by their employers. This statement might give foreigners the boldness to take advantage of Filipinas in their employ.”
Women’s groups, among the sectors offended by the President’s behavior, harped on his alleged misogyny and his regard for women as sex objects. They said he is scared of strong women, theorizing that he sees them as the likely cause of his eventual downfall.
• Kris challenges Mocha to duel
BUT the criticism refuses to die down. More so after Asst. Communications Secretary Mocha Uson juxtaposed on Facebook the video of a kissing Duterte and that of the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino being smooched by a woman who happened to be on the same flight that brought him back home – and to martyrdom — in 1983.
Mocha’s post showed Duterte kissing the Filipina in Seoul with the question, “Masagwa daw ito?” alongside the video of the woman passenger kissing Ninoy and the question, “Pero ito hindi?”
Lupita Kashiwahara, Ninoy’s sister who has been defending Duterte against US media attacks on human rights and other issues, told me yesterday:
“What a huge PR blunder by Mocha. She stirred up a hornet’s nest by referencing Ninoy who never initiated the ‘kiss’ but was taken completely by surprise when the woman on the plane came up behind him.
“It’s not only unfair but an attempt to denigrate the memory of someone who gave his life for his country and can’t defend himself. So shame on Mocha. She should be fired for doing a great disservice to President Duterte.”
Kris Aquino, Ninoy’s bunso, was so hurt by Mocha’s blog that maligned her father and her mother, former President Cory Aquino, who she lamented were no longer around to defend themselves.
She said the Aquino children were brought up to speak up when aggrieved and when defending the oppressed.
In a 17-minute video uploaded Tuesday on FB and Instagram, Kris challenged Mocha to settle the score with her: “Babae sa babae, gusto mo ng kaaway? Ako. I’m ready. Anytime, anywhere, harapan!”
Kris said she and Uson could mix it up like in the scene from the movie “Four Sisters and a Wedding” where the starlet was dragged down the street by the hair by Angel Locsin.
She said: “Kung gusto mo ng kalaban, kung gusto mo ng punching bag, kung gusto mo ng taong sasampal-sampalin, kung gusto mo ng taong sasabunutan, nandito ako. I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I don’t know if you’re ready for me!”
Although obviously angry, her voice sometimes seeming to crack, Kris kept her measured tone, never let out a curse a la Duterte, and never shed a tear.
(When Cory and her children flew back to Manila after Ninoy’s assassination in 1983, she gave strict instructions that they should never give the dictator Marcos the satisfaction of seeing them weep in public. They have carried on that stoicism.)
Kris addressed Mocha – “This is a direct challenge to you. Text me, you can find my number, it’s so easy. Name the place, name the location, let’s carry it live. Bring all your followers… I can stand alone.”