The G20 summit in Hangzhou, China was the scene of a colorful event. During a press conference, the president of the Philippines made remarks that were inappropriate. And soon enough the media was all over the story, anticipating a reaction from the American side.
This was an unforeseen event that will have diplomatic and political implications. Since then, the Philippines meeting on Barack Obama’s schedule was cancelled.
This puts a strain on the alliance between the United States and the Philippines. At the same time, it pushes back the goals that the US had regarding the Philippines.
The Filipino President’s Comments
T he Filipino president was speaking to reporters at a press conference when he made the comment. He said that the Philippines is a “sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony”.
He added that he does not have any master except the Filipino people. In response to a question regarding president Obama possibly raising the issue of extrajudicial killings at the G20 meeting Duterte replied: “Putang ina… I will swear at you in that forum.” That is a Tagalog phrase for an obscenity.
Since Rodrigo Duterte took office in June, more than 2,000 people that were suspects of dealing drugs were killed. This was part of an anti-drug crusade that has been a priority for Mr. Duerte’s administration. In advance of the G20, Obama has stated that he will not shy away from talking about “international norms” regarding due-process.
Rodrigo Duterte was the mayor of the city of Davao, in the south of the Philippines. He became very popular for his tough stances and loose-talking style. However, this way of expressing himself has received many headlines. In the past, he has directed profanity at the United Nations, at the United States ambassador to Manila and at Pope Francis.
Reaction from President Obama
Earlier Monday, the media was asking for Barack Obama’s reaction. He said that he was made aware of the comment by the Filipino president. But he calmly added that he is also familiar with Duterte’s long line of “colorful statements”
“Clearly, he’s a colorful guy,” Obama said at a press conference after the G20 summit. He reiterated that the Filipino people are some of America’s closest “friends and allies”.
With regard to the meeting, the president’s language was non-committal. He made sure to say that “if and when” there will be a meeting the very important thing is that it is productive “and we’re getting something done”. He added that staffers from the Obama administration are going to be in touch with their Philippine counterparts to see if a meeting is possible.
All things considered, the Obama administration decided against taking the meeting with the president of the Philippines.
A few hours later, Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House, said that there will be no meeting on Tuesday afternoon with Filipino president Duterte. Barack Obama’s schedule for Tuesday now has a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for president Duterte read a written statement. In it, Duterte expressed his regret that the comments he made “came across as a personal attack” on U.S. president, Barack Obama. The statement also said that a meeting between the U.S. and the Philippines will take place at a later date.