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Duterte says he snubbed Obama too at Laos meet

/ 03:48 AM September 14, 2016
US President Barack Obama and Philippine  President Duterte    AP

US President Barack Obama and Philippine President Duterte          AP

TIT FOR TAT.

President Duterte insisted on Monday that he snubbed US President Barack Obama after the latter canceled their bilateral meeting scheduled on Sept. 6 on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Vientiane, Laos, last week.

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The fiery Philippine leader said he skipped the Sept. 8 meeting between Obama and Asean leaders, following Washington’s criticism of Manila’s war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

“I purposely did not attend the bilateral talks between Asean countries and the president of the United States,” Mr. Duterte said at Rizal Hall in Malacañang where he delivered a speech before outstanding police officials, military officers and school teachers.

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“I really skipped that one … . You just cannot (lecture) a president of a sovereign state. Even Obama. It would have been wrong for him to do that. That is why I disrespected them,” he added.

Mr. Duterte sparked a storm a day ahead of the Asean summit by calling Obama a “son of a bitch” during a predeparture news conference in Davao City in which the Philippine leader warned that the latter should not question him about his war on drugs, which had left thousands dead.

Asked by a reporter how he would explain the killings to Obama, Mr. Duterte said in a long answer that the Philippines had long ceased to be a US colony and that he was answerable to nobody but the Filipino people.

“I do not care about him. Who is he?” Mr. Duterte said. “You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions and statements. Putang ina, I will swear at you at that forum,” he added, using the Filipino phrase for “son of a bitch.”

This prompted the US leader to call off their planned bilateral talks despite Mr. Duterte’s expression of regret over his intemperate language.

The following day, however, the two allies had a brief, informal meeting in a holding room before attending a gala dinner.

‘Never cursed him’

During his visit to Jakarta on Sept. 9, Mr. Duterte said he told the American president during their encounter in Laos that he never cursed him. “President Obama, I’m President Duterte. I never made that statement, check it out,” he told the Filipino community in Indonesia.

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Mr. Duterte said that Obama responded: “’My men will talk to you,’ and he replied ‘OK.’”

Mr. Duterte blamed the media for distorting his words, saying he did utter “son of a bitch,” but it was not directed at Obama.

Duterte, who assumed the presidency in June, has had an uneasy relationship with the United States, a longtime treaty ally of the Philippines.

He has said he is charting a foreign policy not dependent on the United States, and has moved to reduce tensions with China over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Photo of dead Moros

To stop criticism over human rights violations in his war on drugs, he showed Asean leaders and their Western counterparts a photograph of an atrocity during the US pacification campaign in Western Mindanao at the beginning of the last century.

The photo showed about 200 dead Filipino Moros stacked in a common pit, with an American soldier holding a rifle while stepping on the breasts of a naked Moro woman.

He said he told the leaders, “This is human rights, what do you intend to do? … Human rights violations whether committed by Moses or Abraham, is still violation of human rights.”

The whole room was silent, according to Mr. Duterte who said he waited for Obama to respond but the latter remained quiet.

None of US business

Even so, Obama urged the Philippine leader in a subsequent news conference to conduct his antidrug war “the right way” and to protect human rights. Mr. Duterte said it was none of America’s business.

Mr. Duterte won the presidential election by a landslide in May after promising that tens of thousands of people would be killed in an unprecedented crackdown on illegal drugs. About 3,000 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed since Mr. Duterte took office on June 30.

His actions have also sparked a wave of international condemnation, including from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the US Department of State.

Earlier on Monday, Mr. Duterte said he was ordering all US Special Forces to leave Mindanao where they have been advising local troops in battling Moro extremists, saying the West was at the root of the persistent insurgency. Reports from AFP and AP

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TAGS: Asean Summit, Barack Obama, Features, Global Nation, Laos
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