DURING his visit to Israel earlier this week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made an unexpected apology to his former United States counterpart Barack Obama for a past expletive-laden tirade where he called the latter a “son of a bitch”.
In a meeting with the Philippine community in Jerusalem, Duterte expressed remorse over the incident which happened in 2016 after Obama criticised him for his bloody war on drugs, saying he had “forgiven” Obama for his remarks.
“I got angry. I said, ‘son of a bitch, Obama, you can go to hell. You son of a bitch.’ I said that because he was not a civilized person anyway. Being a president of a republic you ought to know the basic rules. You do not criticize, especially if it is a problem of the country that you are criticising,” Duterte said.
“Well then, it would be appropriate also to say at this time to Mr. Obama that you are now a civilian and I am sorry for uttering those words… We have learned our lessons very well.”
In forgiving Obama, Duterte also explained that he tends to use foul language whenever he loses his temper.
“I am forgiving you, just like my girlfriends when I was still a bachelor. I am forgiving you. I have forgiven all of them,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s apology comes after many verbal run-ins with numerous leaders and prominent people from around the world which have created diplomatic tensions between the Philippines and the nations involved.
With that in mind, here are another five headline-grabbing diplomatic faux pas’ committed by the firebrand leader:
1. The Pope is a ‘son of a whore’
Duterte’s country is staunchly Catholic but this did not stop him from lambasting the Pope during his presidential campaign in April 2016.
Pointing out Pope Francis’s 2015 visit to the Philippines, Duterte said he was anguished that the top priest’s presence in the country had created gridlocks in the already traffic-heavy capital of Manila.
“It took us five hours to get from the hotel to the airport. I asked who was coming. They said it was the Pope. I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, son of a whore, go home. Don’t visit anymore,’” Duterte said.
He later apologised to the Pope.
2. Calling the UN ‘stupid’
Nearly 1,000 people died in a drugs crackdown within the first few weeks of his presidency, leading to criticisms from UN human rights envoys.
And while it is not unexpected to see human rights advocates condemning alleged extrajudicial killings, Duterte saw it as a personal attack against his presidency.
“I will prove to the world that you are a very stupid expert,” he said.
Apart from keeping tabs on drug-related deaths, Duterte wanted the UN experts to count the number of innocent lives lost to drugs.
“I do not want to insult you. But maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations,” he said. “Why do you have to listen to this stupid [sic]?”
On whether he was afraid of any backlash, Duterte said: “What is … repercussions? I don’t give a sh*t to them.”
He also threatened to pull the Philippines out of the UN but the threat did not materialise.
3. Arresting Australian Nun
In 2016, Duterte sparked a diplomatic row with Australia over a rape joke he made about a murdered Australian missionary. And in April this year, the relationship between the two nations grew tenser when he ordered the arrest of a 71-year-old nun for “disorderly conduct” after she took part in local protests.
Duterte’s orders led to the 24-hour detention of Sister Patricia Fox, a coordinator of a Philippine congregation of Catholic nuns called Notre Dame de Sion, by the immigration bureau.
“I ordered her to be investigated, not deported at once, not arrested, but to invite her to an investigation for disorderly conduct,” Duterte later clarified.
4. Threats against ICC prosecutor
In April, Duterte threatened to arrest an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor over the latter’s attempts to investigate him, arguing the Philippines was no longer an ICC member so the court had no right to do any investigating.
Calling it an international effort to depict him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights,” Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the ICC’s Rome Statute a month before and promised to continue his crackdown on drugs, in which thousands have been killed.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in February announced the start of a preliminary examination into a complaint by a Philippine lawyer which accuses Duterte and top officials of crimes against humanity, and of killing criminals as a policy.
Duterte has cited numerous reasons why he believes the ICC has no jurisdiction over him and suggested that any doubts about that should have been dispelled by his withdrawal.
5. Lashing out at the European Union
In February, Duterte angrily turned down an invitation to an Asia-Europe summit in Brussels as he again lashed out at the EU and accused the bloc of insulting him over his deadly war on drugs, according to the AFP.
The leader labelled the 28-country European Union – the Philippines’ second most important trading partner – “stupid”. He also warned he would not stay silent in the face of Western condemnation of his crackdown on crime.
Duterte hit out after saying European Council President Donald Tusk had invited him to the biennial Asia-Europe meeting in October.
“I’ve been invited by the EU, that stupid organisation,” Duterte said.
“I said, ‘For what? You thought of me as that kind of person then, so why change your assessment?’”