Duterte kept away from Obama, Ban

President Rodrigo Duterte got on well with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Source: Wikimedia


Outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been spared an awkward dinner at the Asean summit in Laos after he announced he would be dining between two men he had recently insulted: US President Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He wasn’t.

Philippine aides said Obama and Duterte did speak informally at the event.

It is unclear why Duterte thought he was due to sit next to Obama and Ban.

At the weekend Duterte used the Tagalog term “putang ina” when threatening to curse Obama if he raised the issue of extrajudicial murders in the Philippines in reference to the mass slaughter of suspected drug dealers and addicts. The phrase means “son of a bitch” or “son of a whore”. Shortly afterwards, Washington cancelled a scheduled meeting between the two men. On arrival in Laos, Duterte said he regretted the comments “came across as a personal attack”.

The thin-skinned Duterte was also dismissive of Ban concerns about the extrajudicial slaughter of around 2,400 citizens and in August he threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the UN, saying Ban had made a “very stupid” remark. Duterte again tried to backtrack, saying that he was only joking. This week, however, the so-called “Punisher” said he would not meet Ban in Vientiane because he had “no time”.

“Presidents Duterte and Obama will be seated next to each other, which expectedly, will focus all cameras on them to deliver to the world the encounter of the two. Incidentally, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also seated on the other side of President Duterte,” Duterte’s spokesperson, who presumably has one of the planet’s more challenging jobs, reportedly said this week.

Losses to the Philippine stock exchange are accelerating as foreigners are pulling investment from Asia’s most expensive market, amid speculation that outbursts by Duterte were hurting investor confidence.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index fell 1.3 per cent in its biggest decline in five weeks. The gauge has dropped 6 per cent from a 15-month high on July 21, paring its gain during 2016 to 9.6 per cent. 

Foreign funds pulled US$58 million from domestic equities on Wednesday, the most in almost 12 months, and have sold a net US$333 million in an 11-day run of outflows. The index is down 2.3 per cent this quarter, making it the only decliner among significant Asian markets.

Duterte’s “son of a whore” remarks “didn’t sit well” with international investors, said Rafael Palma Gil of Rizal Commercial Banking Group in Manila. 

Duterte’s mouth is taking the gloss off a market that has been an investors’ favourite with the highest Asian growth rates.