U.S. PRESIDENT Barack Obama called off what was meant to be his first meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter reportedly cursed at him, and even described him in vulgar terms.
The outspoken Filipino politician had earlier Monday warned Obama against raising the issue of human rights with him when the two met, saying: “Son of a bitch, I will swear at you.”
According to The Philippine Star, Duterte said this when speaking to the media before he left for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane, Laos. He was to meet with Obama on the sidelines of the summit today during which the U.S. president was reportedly planning to speak to his Filipino counterpart about human rights.
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Duterte is facing international fire for his campaign against drugs which has so far resulted in the deaths of nearly 2,000 suspected drug pushers, some at the hands of local Filipino forces and others allegedly by vigilante groups and individuals.
But the leader, who won the presidency earlier this year on his anti-drugs message, has stayed relentless in his bid to keep the Philippines narcotics-free, oftentimes lashing out and using offensive language against his detractors.
“The Philippines is not a vassal state. We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States… I do not respond to anybody but to the people of the Republic of the Philippines. Who is he?” he was quoted telling Filipino media Monday when asked about his meeting with Obama.
“I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people,” he added, according to The Philippine Star.
Other media reports quoted the leader as continuing his tirade by cursing at Obama.
“You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions. Putang ina, I will swear at you at that forum,” he was quoted in National Post as saying, using the Tagalog phrase for “son of a bitch”.
Obama reportedly learned about the insult as he left from the Group of 20 Summit in Hangzhou, China.
The U.S. president did not appear miffed, however, according to reports, but shrugged off the matter, saying, “Clearly he’s a colourful guy,” as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald.
A Reuters report said today that Obama told a news conference later that he had asked his aides to speak to Philippine officials, “to find out is this, in fact, a time where we can have some constructive, productive conversations.”
“I always want to make sure that if I’m having a meeting, that it’s actually productive and we’re getting something done,” Obama was quoted as saying.
Later in the day, the White House confirmed that the meeting would not proceed as planned.
Instead, Reuters wrote, Obama will meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and the duo are expected to discuss North Korea’s latest missile tests.