HANGZHOU, China, Sept. 5 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday he was considering changing his mind about meeting with Rodrigo Duterte after the Filipino president said he’d swear at him if he asked about the killings of drug dealers and users.
Obama was scheduled to meet Duterte on Tuesday at a gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos. Obama arrived in Vientiane, Laos, on Monday, becoming the first sitting president to visit the nation.
Before flying to Laos, Duterte bluntly said: “I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions. Putang ina I will swear at you in that forum,” he said, using the Tagalog phrase for “son of a bitch.”
Obama, at a news conference on the G20 summit in China, said he had heard about the comment and instructed his aides to determine whether a meeting would be productive.
“Obviously the Filipino people are some of our closest friends and allies and the Philippines is a treaty ally of ours,” Obama said before departing for Laos. “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.
“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.”
More than 1,900 people have died, including at least 700 in police operations, as part of the president’s war on drugs when he took over in June. The policy has been criticized by the Catholic Church, human rights groups and the United Nations.
Duterte said his country hadn’t received an apology for alleged misdeeds committed during the U.S. colonization of the Philippines in the 1900s and blamed the United States for causing the unrest on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
“As a matter of fact, we inherited this problem from the United States,” he said. “Why? Because they invaded this country and made us their subjugated people. Everybody has a terrible record of extra-judicial killing. Why make an issue about fighting crime?”
He then mentioned human rights issues in the United States, noting “the way they treat the migrants there.”
Duterte said the crackdowns would continue.
“More people will be killed, plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets,” he said.
“Until the [last] drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue and I will continue.”