Philippines’ Duterte regrets controversial Obama comments

The Philippines says President Rodrigo Duterte regrets the comments he made about U.S. President Barack Obama, and hopes to iron out the differences between the two nations.

VIENTIANE, LAOS (SEPTEMBER 6, 2016) (REUTERS) – The Philippines said on Tuesday (September 6) that President Rodrigo Duterte regretted that comments he made about U.S. President Barack Obama came across as a personal attack and led to the cancellation of a meeting between the leaders of the allied nations.

“President Duterte explained that the press reports that the President Obama would “lecture” him on extrajudicial killings led to his strong comments, which in turn elicited concern. He regrets that his remarks to the press have caused much controversy,” Philippines Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said at a summit in Laos.

“The President looks forward to ironing out differences,” Andanar added.

Obama cancelled what would have been his first meeting with Duterte, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday, saying he had told his aides to speak with Philippine officials to find out if a meeting would be “constructive, productive” at this time.

Duterte, a plain-spoken populist known for his colourful remarks and his campaign against illegal drugs in which thousands of people have died, referred to Obama as a “son of a bitch” in front of reporters on Monday (September 5), a day ahead of the planned meeting in Laos, where Southeast Asian leaders are meeting for annual summits.

Duterte said it would be “rude” for Obama to raise the human rights issue and told reporters such a conversation would prompt him to curse at Obama, using a Filipino phrase “putang ina” which can mean “son of a bitch” or “son of a whore”.

Obama learned about the insult as he emerged from the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China.

“Our primary intention is to chart an independent foreign policy on promoting closer ties with all nations, especially the U.S. with which we have a long-standing partnership,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told reporters on Tuesday, reading from a statement from Duterte.

Duterte won the presidency in May as he promised to suppress crime and wipe out drugs and drug dealers. At least 2,400 people have been killed since he took office on July 1, including 900 in police operations against drug pushers.