EDS: NOTE LANGUAGE IN PARA 5 AND 6
By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – The Philippines president has expressed regret after widely reported comments about his United States counterpart caused the cancellation of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos.
In a statement read by Philippines Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Tuesday, Rodrigo Duterte blamed the media for reporting his profanity-laden response to what he said was Barack Obama’s plan to “lecture” him on human rights.
“While the immediate cause of my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the U.S. president,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Andanar as saying.
On Monday, Duterte said he only responded to his people, and did not care about Obama, after being asked by journalists how he would deal with long standing questions from the U.S. about human rights and extra-judicial killings.
“The Philippines is not a vassal state. We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States,” Duterte said, and then went on to refer to the U.S. leader in a Philippines dialect as a “mother-whore”.
“You must be respectful. You just don’t throw question and statements. Mother-whore, I’ll curse you in that forum,” he said prior to flying to the Laos capital Vientiane for the three-day ASEAN summits — his first foreign assignment since he was sworn in as head of state in June.
Early Tuesday, U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Obama would now not be holding a bilateral meeting with Duterte.
“Instead, he will meet with President Park of the Republic of Korea this afternoon, September 6th,” Price added.
A veteran Filipino veteran diplomat said Tuesday that Duterte needs advice on the “art of diplomacy”, calling toned-down rhetoric from Duterte just hours after the profanity-laden monologue “too late”.
“I think the president should be advised on the art of diplomacy and the implications of the strategic importance of approaches to the intricacies of international relations,” said Lauro Baja, the Philippines’ former Permanent Representative to the UN and Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, according to ABS-CBN News.
Meanwhile, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said that the president’s choice of language should not spoil international relations.
“We already know that expletives are part of his language… this should not affect our relationship with other nations … We are not that lowly,” the Inquirer quoted Pimentel — a Duterte ally — as saying.
“There are procedures… there are thinkers, policymakers, professional diplomats so don’t worry. Let the President be himself and anyway, if this will damage the relationship, I’m confident that we can rehabilitate, we can fix the relationship.”
* Anadolu Agency correspondent Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington