Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Anti-American Rant Complicates U.S. Goals — Duterte tells Obama ‘son of a whore’ remark was not meant to be personal

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Philippines President Duterte tells Obama ‘son of a whore’ remark was not meant to be personal

MANILA—An anti-American rant by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, which was later recanted, cast a shadow on Washington’s bid to bolster ties with Asian allies such as Manila to help offset China’s growing might.

U.S. President Barack Obama scrapped a planned meeting with Mr. Duterte in Laos on Tuesday after the outburst, sparking strains with one of Washington’s oldest Asian allies. Mr. Duterte later apologized. Still, the U.S.-Philippine tensions contrasted with Mr. Duterte’s apparent determination to improve tattered relations with China.

Mr. Duterte, who took office in June, had been set for his first meeting with Mr. Obama on the sidelines of a regional summit in Laos. But before leaving Manila on Monday he reacted angrily to reporter questions about how he would respond should Mr. Obama express concerns on human rights grounds about the deaths of over 2,000 people in an antidrug campaign being waged by Mr. Duterte’s administration.


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Laos on Monday night for a regional summit. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELISNOEL

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Mr. Duterte blamed the U.S., which ran the Philippines as a colony until 1946, for spawning the country’s current problems. Switching from English to Tagalog in an aside, he used the phrase “son of a bitch,” drawing scorn from the international press who took it as an insult directed straight at Mr. Obama.

“Clearly, he’s a colorful guy,” Mr. Obama said, questioning whether such talks could be “productive.” Soon after, the White House said the bilateral meeting was off.
Later Monday night, Mr. Duterte appeared to regret his outburst. “I do not want to quarrel with [Obama]. He’s the most powerful president of any country on the planet,” Mr. Duterte said after touching down in Laos. He blamed State Department officials for needling him by continually raising the issue of human rights, something Mr. Duterte contends matters less than curbing crime.

On Tuesday, a Philippine government spokesman said both sides decided to postpone the bilateral meeting to a later, undetermined date. “President Duterte today affirmed that he continues to value the alliance with the United States,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Duterte also issued a separate statement on Tuesday, accepting blame for the meeting’s postponement, adding “we also regret that it came across as a personal attack on the U.S. president.” He said the Philippines aims to chart an independent foreign policy “while promoting closer ties with all nations, especially the U.S.”

Mr. Duterte is experiencing a rocky transition from local politics to the global stage. He served for three decades as mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao, becoming hugely popular for his tough approach to governance and for his loose-talking style.

“There will be a metamorphosis,” Mr. Duterte promised shortly after his election in May, agreeing to become more presidential and stop swearing in public. “From being a caterpillar, [I] will blossom into a butterfly.”

The shift hasn’t occurred. Mr. Duterte has regularly blasted critics, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and international human rights groups for questioning his extreme stance on law and order.

This isn’t the first time that Mr. Duterte’s team has been forced to hastily retract some of his more controversial statements. He has repeatedly urged citizens to shoot suspected drug pushers and users. “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself,” he said in one June speech in Manila. But his spokesmen have issued numerous clarifications claiming that Mr. Duterte doesn’t really mean what he says.

His provocation of the U.S., which has been a treaty ally of Manila since 1951, demonstrates how he is struggling to adapt to high office, said Richard Javad Heydarian of Manila’s De La Salle University.

“His street-smart brand of politics brought him astonishing success in Philippine politics, and in frontier cities like Davao, but global affairs is another ballgame altogether,” Mr. Heydarian said.

Despite Mr. Duterte’s undiplomatic remarks over the U.S. and its colonial record, the Philippines has more recently become a prime beneficiary of U.S. aid. It reached record levels this year as the two allies pushed ahead with a defense pact signed by Mr. Obama and Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III in 2014. That is a key plank of Mr. Obama’s strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region and includes the planned deployment of U.S. troops to the Philippines for the first time in two decades.

On top of $79 million in military aid for 2016, Manila is set to receive $42 million from a White House initiative to build the maritime capacity. The U.S. has also supplied Manila with secondhand military equipment, as the Philippines seeks to restock its outmoded armed forces.

The Philippines also benefits from decades of military cooperation against local rebels, helpful for Mr. Duterte as he faces new threats of Islamist terrorism from Abu Sayyaf group, whose militants killed 14 people in a Davao bombing last week.

Such cooperation is likely to continue despite Mr. Duterte’s erratic behavior though Mr. Duterte could seek to restrict defense cooperation, Mr. Heydarian said.

“Obama’s diplomatic snub clearly shows growing strain in bilateral relations, but I expect the two allies to sort things out behind the scenes,” he said.

While the Duterte administration appears to be struggling to formulate a coherent foreign policy, it has been consistent in seeking to repair ties with China, which have deteriorated since Mr. Aquino took Beijing to a Hague tribunal in 2013 over the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

The tribunal ruled in the Philippines’ favor July, striking down Beijing’s expansive claims to the South China Sea. China rejected the ruling. Mr. Duterte said he would not raise the matter at this week’s summit, a diplomacy that Mr. Heydarian said showed that the “de-escalation of maritime tensions with China” was a central pillar of Mr. Duterte’s foreign policy.

Yet, any fissures in U.S.-Philippine ties that cast doubts on Washington’s commitment to protect Manila could make Beijing less likely to negotiate with Mr. Duterte over the South China Sea, he said.

—Chun Han Wong in Vientiane, Laos, contributed to this article.

Write to Trefor Moss at Trefor.Moss@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/philippine-leaders-anti-american-outburst-complicates-u-s-goals-1473138373

Related:

President Obama Seems to Be Taking All The Insults Well

 (Contains links to several related articles)

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Philippines President Duterte tells Obama ‘son of a whore’ remark was not meant to be personal

Philippine president says he wants ‘no quarrel’ with Barack Obama and spokesman says ‘strong comments’ arose from frustration at press questions

 President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has expressed regret for calling Barack Obama a “son of a whore” – a remark that led to the US leader cancelling their meeting during a regional summit in Laos.

In a statement read by his spokesman, Duterte said the remark was not intended as a personal insult. “While the immediate cause was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress, we also regret that it came across as a personal attack on the US president,” Ernesto Abella quoted Duterte as saying.

He added that a meeting with the US had been “mutually agreed upon to be moved to a later date”.

Duterte called Obama a “son of a whore” following weeks of criticism from the US against extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ bloody drug war.

“Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte was quoted as saying.

As Duterte arrived in the Laos capital, Vientiane, for the Association of South-east Asian Nations summit on Monday evening, he was already rowing back on the remark, saying he did not want a fight.

“I do not want to quarrel with him. He’s the most powerful president of any country on the planet,” Duterte said.

Instead, he said, he was angry at members of the US state department who “keep on mouthing” statements about human rights.

Elected in May on an anti-crime platform, Duterte has lashed out at the US and others for criticising his war on drugs, in which more than 2,400 people have been killed by police and vigilante militia.

Obama said he was trying to schedule “some constructive, productive conversations” with Duterte but a White House spokesman later confirmed the meeting was cancelled.

The Philippines, which has overlapping claims with China to islands and atolls in the sea, won an international ruling against Beijing in July. But Duterte has said it is “better to continually engage China in a diplomatic dialogue rather than anger officials there”, starkly at odds with his recent comments about Obama.

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

With domestic popularity ratings in the order of 90%, the Philippine leader has won approval for his foul-mouthed press conferences from a public tired with years of well-spoken politicians from a small Manila-based elite.

Duterte previously named the US ambassador to Manila a “gay son of a whore”and told the Catholic church: “Don’t fuck with me.”

He has called the United Nations “stupid” for criticism of his controversial war on crime, in which he said 100,000 people would be killed and told citizens they should murder addicts.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/06/son-of-a-whore-was-not-meant-to-be-personal-duterte-tells-obama

 

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One Response to “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Anti-American Rant Complicates U.S. Goals — Duterte tells Obama ‘son of a whore’ remark was not meant to be personal”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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