Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte drew sharp criticismyesterday from women's groups after he kissed a married woman on the lips onstage during a public engagement in Seoul.
Left-leaning political party Gabriela called the act the "disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim".
On Sunday, Mr Duterte called a woman onstage as he was wrapping up a speech to Filipinos living in the South Korean capital. He offered to give her a signed copy of a book he often brandishes when criticising the Catholic Church, in exchange for a kiss. Before kissing the woman, he asked her if she was married.
She is, to a South Korean, and they have two children. "Can you tell (your husband) this is just a joke," he said, then held her by the arms and pressed his lips on hers.
He told the cheering audience that it was "just a gimmick to make the people happy", adding: "There's nothing in it except that I want to be close to… my countrymen."
But Gabriela described it as "his own perverted way of getting back at his women critics, his way of proving he can dominate women at any time and any place he chooses. It is his way of publicly exhibiting his contempt for women".
"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 added.
Advocacy group Every Woman said Mr Duterte "just doesn't care whether women find his physical intimacies acceptable or repulsive".
This is not the first time Mr Duterte, who has a reputation for crude language and sexist remarks, has drawn the ire of women's groups.
In February, he was criticised for having boasted that he had ordered soldiers to shoot female communist guerillas in the genitals.
"Tell the soldiers, 'There's a new order coming from the mayor'," he said in a speech, recalling a directive he said he had issued when he was mayor of Davao City.
"We will not kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina."
He later defended that remark as "sarcasm". His spokesman Harry Roque said Mr Duterte should be taken seriously, but not literally.
During the presidential campaign in 2016, he made a joke about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary by inmates during a prison riot in 1989 in Davao City.
He has also used sexual jokes and rumours to attack women who have questioned his bloody war on drugs. His targets included Senator Leila de Lima and ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.