Philippines’ Duterte expresses regret over Obama slur

The US president responded to the outburst by cancelling the talks, which prompted Rodrigo Duterte to offer a qualified expression of regret.
US president Barack Obama, left, cancelled his meeting with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte in Vientiane, Laos after the latter insulted the US president. Narendra Shresthat and Mast Irham / EPA
US president Barack Obama, left, cancelled his meeting with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte in Vientiane, Laos after the latter insulted the US president. Narendra Shresthat and Mast Irham / EPA

VIENTIANE, LAOS // Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte expressed regret on Tuesday that a tirade against Barack Obama came across as a personal attack.

Longtime allies the United States and the Philippines have seen relations plunge under a barrage of insults from Mr Duterte since he came to office on June 30.

The latest outburst from came on Monday before a planned meeting between the leaders at a regional summit in Laos.

Mr Obama responded to the outburst by cancelling the talks, which prompted Mr Duterte to offer a qualified expression of regret.

“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 US president,” a statement released by Mr Duterte said.

The 71-year-old former prosecutor was referring to his remarks on Monday, when he warned he would not be lectured by Mr Obama over concerns about a brutal war on drug crime that has claimed more than 2,400 lives in the Philippines.

“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements ... I will curse you in that forum,” Mr Duterte told reporters when asked about his message for Mr Obama.

Mr Duterte, who has quickly earned a global reputation for his jibes, then used typically colourful language to describe their planned meeting if rights issues came up.

“Our primary intention is to chart an independent foreign policy while promoting closer ties with all nations especially the US with which we have a longstanding partnership,” Mr Duterte said.

The Philippines’ department of foreign affairs added that Mr Duterte had “a deep regard and affinity for President Obama and for the enduring partnership between our nations”.

Duterte has angrily rejected criticism from the Catholic Church, human rights groups, legislators and the United Nations over his drug purge.

During his Monday outburst he said the bloodbath would continue.

“More people will be killed, plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets. Until the [last] drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue and I will continue,” he said.

He also added he would not take orders from the United States, a former colonial ruler of the Philippines, and did not care about how he was perceived.

Mr Duterte has also vowed to personally tear apart and eat Abu Sayyaf militants, in a bloodthirsty vow of revenge for deadly attacks.

“They will pay. When the time comes, I will eat you in front of people,” Mr Duterte said late on Monday night while in Laos for a regional summit.

“If you make me mad, in all honesty, I will eat you alive, raw.”

His aides often urge reporters against taking his comments literally, cautioning that he speaks in a crude language of the people.

The Abu Sayyaf are a small band of militants based on remote southern islands of the mainly Catholic Philippines and are listed by the United States as a terrorist organisation.

They are notorious for kidnapping foreigners to extract ransoms, and this year beheaded two Canadian hostages.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: September 6, 2016 04:00 AM

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