Tough-talking Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is now backpedaling from his strong statements yesterday against United States President Barack Obama, saying that his words might have come across as a “personal attack”.
Duterte made a statement on Monday before leaving for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos, threatening to throw expletives at Obama if he “lectured” him on human rights and extrajudicial killings at the leaders’ meeting.
“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte was quoted as saying by the Agence France-Presse. “We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me.”
At a news conference in China after the G20 summit, Obama joked in response, “He’s a colorful guy… I always want to make sure if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive.”
The POTUS revealed that he was consulting his staff to find out whether holding the meeting as scheduled in Laos for the ASEAN Summit would prove to be productive upon learning of the Philippine president’s statements.
“What I’ve instructed my team to do is to talk to their Philippine counterparts to find out is this in fact a time where we can have some constructive, productive conversations,” Obama said.
Duterte would later release a statement, however, expressing regrets over the strong comments he made, according to Rappler.
“While the immediate cause was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the U.S. president,” Duterte said.
“The meeting between the United States and the Philippines has been mutually agreed upon to be moved to a later date.”
The statement also stressed that while the Philippines is hoping to chart a more independent foreign policy, it will continue to preserve close ties with the U.S. and other countries.
“We look forward to ironing out differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions, and working in mutually responsible ways for both countries,” the statement concluded.
Obama’s staff had earlier expressed that he also wanted to discuss the South China Sea issue with Duterte, according to Reuters.
The Philippines had forged closer military ties with the United States under former president Benigno Aquino with aims of dealing with the China threat in contested waters.