Duterte-Obama meeting in doubt

Barack Obama experienced an amicable relationship with the previous president, Benigno Aquino. Source: Wikimedia

The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has called his US counterpart and key ally Barack Obama a “son of a whore”, warning him not to raise human rights issues, or mass-murder as it is often known. Obama in turn has questioned whether he should make time to meet Duterte.

The outspoken head of state was asked how he intended to respond should Obama ask about his war on drugs and mass killings that are spreading through the archipelago. Hundreds of people have died in anti-drug operations and vigilante slaughter since Duterte took office.

The two presidents are due to meet on Tuesday in Laos at an Asean conference. The UN, Roman Catholic Church and numerous NGOs have also criticised Duterte’s approach to state-sponsored killings.

But Duterte said he was not concerned about the opinions of those observing his actions, adding that he would not take orders from the Americans, Philippines’ former colonial masters. “I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony,” Duterte told reporters before setting off for Laos.

“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte told the media. “We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me,” added Duterte, who likes a colourful metaphor.

Around 2,400 people have been killed in his war on drugs since he took office and he promises far more.

“More people will be killed, plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets. Until the drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue and I will continue,” he said.

In August, two UN human rights experts said Duterte’s directive for police and the public to kill suspected drug addicts and traffickers amounted to “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law”.

Obama said he was assessing whether a meeting would still be constructive.

“Obviously the Filipino people are some of our closest friends and allies and the Philippines is a treaty ally of ours. But I always want to make sure that if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive and we’re getting something done,” he told the media at G20 summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

“I’m going to make an assessment … What is certainly true is that the issues of how we approach fighting crime and drug trafficking is a serious one for all of us, and we’ve got to do it the right way.”