Duterte: I didn’t curse Obama
JAKARTA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he told US President Barack Obama that he never called him a “son of a bitch,” but he maintained a defiant stance on his war on drugs, saying UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was a fool for bringing up human rights.
Obama canceled a planned meeting with Mr. Duterte on the sidelines of this week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Vientiane, Laos, after the Philippine leader cussed him in an outburst over reports that he would raise concerns about human rights violations in the Philippine war on drugs.
“I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Putang ina, I will curse you in that forum,” Mr. Duterte told reporters, using the Filipino phrase for “son of a bitch,” before flying to Laos on Monday.
While on a visit to Indonesia on Friday, Mr. Duterte told a group of Filipinos in a meeting at Shangri-La Jakarta hotel that the slur was not directed at Obama and that he told him so during a brief meeting before the Asean leaders’ gala dinner in Vientiane on Wednesday.
“I told him in a holding room, ‘President Obama, I’m President Duterte. I never made that statement. Check it out,’” Mr. Duterte said.
He quoted Obama as saying to him, “My men will talk to you.”
He said he replied, “OK.”
Mr. Duterte admitted uttering “son of a bitch,” but said it was “not in relation to Obama.”
“I was not fighting America,” he added.
Directed at US state dep’t
Mr. Duterte said his remarks were directed at the US state department, which has raised concerns over potential human rights violations in his war on drugs that has left almost 3,000 dead in just over two months.
“I got really angry about these threats over this human rights issue. This is the fault of the crazy people in the state department,” he said.
Mr. Duterte said he clarified his comments to Obama when they met in Laos.
Obama and Mr. Duterte shook hands and had a brief chat before the Asean gala dinner, easing the standoff, officials said.
The White House said the two men exchanged “pleasantries,” suggesting nothing substantive was discussed.
Mr. Duterte blamed the controversy on “media spin.”
He cited the apology of TV5’s Ed Lingao as proof of the media’s erroneous interpretation that he called Obama a “son of a bitch.”
When Lingao learned that the slur against Obama was based on wrong information fed by his Davao correspondent, he quickly apologized, realizing that “I never made any reference to Obama,” he said.
The acid-tongued Mr. Duterte also blamed the diplomatic bust-up on the foreign media’s erroneous translation of “putang ina” into English as “son of a whore.”
He said “putang ina” was an ordinary expression used by everyone in the Philippines and it should not be taken at face value.
The better translation, he said, is “son of a bitch,” as American media rendered the expression, or “son of a gun.”
British English media rendered the expression as “son of a whore,” which the White House took as an insult to Obama.
At a news conference marking the end of his trip to Laos on Thursday, Obama said he was unfazed by Mr. Duterte’s jibe.
“I don’t take these comments personally because it seems as if this is a phrase he’s used repeatedly, including directed at the Pope and others,” Obama said, adding that such choice words were “a habit, a way of speaking” for Mr. Duterte.
Mr. Duterte has called Pope Francis a “son of a bitch” for causing traffic jams in Manila during his visit to the Philippines last year.
He has also called the US ambassador to Manila, Philip Goldberg, a “gay son of a bitch” and the United Nations “sons of bitches.”
‘I don’t give a shit’
Mr. Duterte said he cared nothing about what the foreign press wrote about him.
“I don’t give a shit. Why? Because I am not the president of the international community. So what if my reputation is bad? I said I don’t give a shit. I am the President of the Republic of the Philippines, not the republic of the international community. You can all go to hell, I will do what I think is best for my country,” he said.
Mr. Duterte blamed the “jaundiced” and “yellow” group—a reference to supporters of his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III—for fueling the controversy, and criticized the US state department for pinning extrajudicial killings on his war on drugs.
Ban a ‘fool’
Mr. Duterte said he thought UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was a fool for bringing up the issue of human rights violations weeks before the Asean summit in Laos.
“Even Ban Ki-moon weighed in,” he said. “Also gave a statement before, several weeks ago, about human rights violation. I said, ‘You’re another fool.’”
That was in June, after the newly elected Mr. Duterte told reporters that corrupt journalists were legitimate targets of assassination, which Ban took as an endorsement of extrajudicial killings.
“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban told UN correspondents at a New York reception on June 8.
Mr. Duterte said Ban raised human rights again in passing in a speech at the closed East Asia leaders’ meeting during the Asean summit in Laos on Thursday.
He said that was the reason why he deviated from his prepared speech and spoke about human rights violations by the Americans in the Philippines.
“I said there has to be a limit to one’s stupidity,” he said. With reports from AFP
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