Two peckers are being measured against each other, and loath as I am to extend the shelf life of this non-story, extend I must if only to correct a false equivalence. During a meet-and-greet with the Filipino community in South Korea, President Duterte planted a kiss on the lips of a Filipina OFW. It was relatively tame as kisses go and it had all the heat of a brother giving his sister a—on second thought, that doesn’t sound like a good comparison—or perhaps more like a grandfather giving his grown granddaughter a grandfatherly kiss on the lips. The act of osculation was consented to by both sides as a review of available video shows and the lady in question appeared more thrilled than thrown. It should be clarified that the President did not comport himself like a bandit landing unwanted smacks on ladies’ lips although he did clarify that kissing female voters was part of his campaign repertoire. Not that this mattered to his critics.
His supporters—one supporter in particular, Mocha Uson, his Assistant Secretary for Social Media, quickly rose in defense of her boss against his detractors’ claims that President should not be acting like that whatever the circumstances. Rodrigo Duterte is one of those Presidents you either hate or love; there are no in-betweens and for those who think that he can do no right, the assertion is that the Korean kiss—as opposed to French which participates tongue—demeans women and takes advantage of them because a male-in-authority should not be kissing women even if they consented to it. Mocha, though, disagreed.
Mocha Uson is one of those rare officials in the Duterte administration I find refreshing. I may have a beef with her regarding her dissemination of what has been called “fake” news but a breath of fresh air she is. Her résumé, which mentions stints as a dancer and a sex columnist, does not read like your typical government flunky’s and if her appointment was more the outcome of political payback than actual merit, then more power to her. Mocha’s defense of her boss took the form of juxtaposing video of him in South Korea and another of Ninoy Aquino on the plane on his way home to the Philippines being enthusiastically kissed by two visibly excited Filipinas. She huffed, if one was malicious, then what about the other one?
Ninoy, who has been unwittingly dragged into this, is in no position to speak for himself, he being dead and all, so his youngest daughter Kris picked up the megaphone on his behalf, launching a social media tirade against Mocha, alleging mnemonic heresy, that is, besmirching the memory of her sainted mom and dad. There is nothing Kris had to say that we had not heard before, yet in defending her parents, by some mysterious alchemy, it all became about her, a plot development that Mocha was quick to notice and point out.
Side-by-side photos of Mocha Uson and Kris Aquino show an uncanny resemblance, the same dank, white faces framed by stick-straight black hair. Superficial likenesses do not ipso facto make two simpatico and indeed, where the resemblance ends, the animus begins. Kris has a point: her dad was on the receiving end of the kisses from his two co-passengers: in Tagalog, pinupupug ng halik. President Duterte, on the other hand, was, shall we say, the active partner. No equivalence can be drawn there—Mocha was plainly wrong, but does that mean that she was in the wrong and that Kris is in the right?
There are so many things going awry in this country: for starters, there’s the rising cost of basic commodities cheek-to-jowl with stagnant wages; then there’s labor-only contracting followed closely by contract killings masquerading as police operations, not to mention the dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea and, oh yes, unabated corruption and inefficiency in this clean-as-a-whistle administration. A catfight between two celebrities over something patently nothing does not deserve the coverage it has received. In the end, what they are squabbling about is the optics. Not about anything of substance but of how things look. One is overly concerned about how her dead parents will be remembered and the other is overly concerned about how the person who butters her bread is perceived as a lip-locking opportunist.
Neither man committed a crime which, if you think about it, makes even the issue of consent superfluous. Ninoy and Digong are career politicians and kissing—or being kissed—by admirers are virtually occupational hazards. Politicians kiss babies all the time, so what is the huge moral difference in kisses between consenting adults? If there are any objections to kissing or being kissed by strangers, it should be sanitary.