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United States President Barack Obama has balked at meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter has threatened to raise hell should the American head of state criticize him on human rights violations allegedly taking place in the Philippines.
This comes as Duterte has bluntly said, on the eve of the scheduled meeting, that he will curse Obama in the ASEAN forum at Laos after it was reported last week that Obama was planning to discuss regional security and human rights with the tough-talking Philippine president.
Duterte was quoted as saying that should that happen, the two presidents will “be wallowing in the mud like pigs” and called Obama “a son of a whore.”
“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte told a news conference. “I don’t give a shit about anybody observing my behavior,” he said.
Duterte made it clear that he was not interested in kowtowing to the opinions of another country critical of his administration, especially if that country was once colonial master to the Philippines. He pointed out that the Philippines was no longer a vassal state to the US.
In response to this, Obama made a joke, noting that he saw the Philippine president as a “colorful guy,” but made a pointed remark, indicating he had doubts if meeting with Duterte would actually prove productive in the end. “I always want to make sure if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive,” he said.
Filipino netizens have expressed disappointment at Duterte’s lack of diplomacy and statesmanship. Award winning Filipino author Ninotchka Rosca called the president a “spoiled brat” for acting as though he were “at the center of the universe.”
Meanwhile, others have wondered whether Obama’s latest statements actually mean that he no longer wants the face-to-face meeting with Duterte at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Summit in Vientiane, Laos to take place.
To ease tensions, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has penned an open letter to Obama, asking for understanding and to give Duterte “a chance.”
“We finally have a President who has faith in God, who has a deep love for our people, who is willing to sacrifice even his life and honor to see that change comes to all Filipinos. President Duterte and our entire nation is now fighting three wars simultaneously,” Cayetano said in his letter.
If the meeting does push through, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes has said that regional security issues will also be raised, particularly those involving tensions in the Western Philippine Sea. China has been provoked by the ruling of an international court, challenging China’s claims on what it still calls the South China Sea.