PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has reportedly taken another swipe at the United States in a thinly veiled jibe, saying former colonizers who committed atrocities in the country historically are now raising human rights concerns with his administration.
Reports said Duterte veered off his speech Thursday at the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) summit in Laos, and launched into another tirade in the presence of US President Barack Obama and several world leaders.
According to the Associated Press, two Philippine Cabinet officials said Duterte did not criticize any country or leader by name in his speech.
Other diplomats who heard the speech, however, felt he was referring to the United States, which colonized the Philippines after defeating its former ruler, Spain.
An Indonesian diplomat said Duterte held up a picture of Filipinos killed in colonial times to underscore his point. The diplomat spoke to reporters on condition that he not be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Two women cry in grief after armed assailants in a motorcycle shot their loved one in a main thoroughfare on July 23, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)
GMA News reported that several attendees described Duterte’s speech as a “fiery address,” in which he alluded to US military killings in the Philippines in the meeting of the 18-nation East Asia group.
“This is my ancestor they killed. Why now we are talking about human rights,” Duterte had reportedly said during the meeting, according to the Indonesian delegate.
Duterte’s remarks, the delegate said, had left the room “quiet and shocked”.
In response, Obama took a less confrontational approach, saying the US wants to cooperate with the Philippines to tackle narco-trafficking, a problem which was serious in the Philippines and other countries.
However, Obama said: “We do want to make sure that the partnership we have is consistent with international norms and rule of law,”
“It is important from our perspective to make sure that we do it the right way, because the consequences of when you do it the wrong way is innocent people get hurt and you have a whole bunch of unintended consequences that don’t solve the problem.”
He added that the diplomatic row with Duterte did not affect the US’ broader relationship with the Philippines on a wide range of bilateral initiatives which included security cooperation.
Obama had earlier canceled a meeting with Duterte after the Philippine leader referred to him in comments to reporters as a “son of a bitch” and warned him not to discuss the deaths of thousands of suspects in an anti-drug campaign.
The outspoken Filipino politician 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.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press