Rodrigo Duterte warned President Obama not to ask him about extrajudicial killings related to his crackdown on drug dealers, using a curse in Tagalog and adding, “I will swear at you in that forum.”
President Obama canceled a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines scheduled for Tuesday in Laos, after the Philippine president directed an expletive at Obama on Monday.
Duterte warned Obama not to ask him about extrajudicial killings related to his crackdown on drug dealers, a campaign pledge that helped sweep him to victory in the country’s presidential election in May.
“I am a president of a sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony,” Duterte told reporters before he left his country for Laos, where he and Obama will attend the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody,” he said in remarks published by The Associated Press. Apparently addressing Obama, he added: “You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions.” Then, using a curse in Tagalog that can be translated as “son of a bitch,” he added, “I will swear at you in that forum.”
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Duterte on Tuesday expressed regret over his remark, saying in a statement his “strong comments” to certain questions by a reporter “elicited concern and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the U.S. president.”
Duterte said both sides mutually agreed to postpone the meeting.
Obama, who was in China for a Group of 20 meeting, left Monday for Laos, becoming the first U.S. president to visit the nation. He is also scheduled to take part in the East Asia Summit and speak at a forum with young people.
Obama had planned to meet Duterte in Laos, but the White House said early Tuesday that the meeting had been canceled.
“Clearly, he’s a colorful guy,” Obama said Monday. “I always want to make sure if I’m having a meeting that it’s productive.”
Duterte, a former mayor of Davao, was apparently referring to the numbers highlighting his campaign against drug dealers.
Last month, the Philippines’ top police official, Chief Ronald dela Rosa, told a Philippine Senate hearing that killings by the police and vigilantes in the country’s war on drugs had soared to nearly 1,800 in the seven weeks since Duterte was sworn into office.
Duterte’s public image has been characterized by bouts of coarse language. He has lashed out at his critics, threatening to withdraw from the United Nations after human-rights experts called for a halt to the killings.
He joked about the rape of an Australian missionary during the presidential campaign. He cursed Pope Francis and his entourage for causing huge traffic jams in Manila during the pope’s visit to the Philippines in 2015.