Monday, October 3, 2016

Obama Duterte ASEAN Talks Are Off Over Tirade and Slur

From a Filipino viewpoint it was just bound to happen. When the elected president of a sovereign nation has the personality of a political strongman who cares not what others thinks of him but will harshly berate criticisms of his policies nonetheless, the outcome was visible from miles away. And in response to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte haranguing questions over his anti-drug campaign, topped off with a slur in the Tagalog language, US president Barack Obama has decided to cancel planned bilateral talks between the two of them at the 2016 ASEAN Summit in Laos.

The Wall Street Journal reports that last week the White House announced that a meeting between the US president and the leader of its closest ally in Southeast Asia would take place during Obama’s trip to Laos to sit in during the ASEAN Summit starting Tuesday September 06, the first ever projected meeting between the two ever since Duterte took office as president of the Philippines in the last day of June this year.

During a press conference with Duterte shortly before his departure for Laos and the ASEAN Summit, a stray question by a reporter on how the Philippine president was going to explain to his American counterpart the mass deaths that are the consequences of his intensified police and military action against drug trade in his country, spurred him to warn Obama not to bring up the subject during the bilateral talks.

Duterte stressed that he was the leader of a sovereign nation that is no longer an American colony, and thus is not entitled to answer any questions about his national policies that he chooses not to. He then declared that Obama ought to be respectful. Unfortunately he didn’t stop there.

Lapsing into the national language of Tagalog, Duterte segued into a rant disparaging the American leader’s apparent habit of throwing asinine questions and statements, calling him a colloquial slur that translated into “Son of a Bitch” and threatening to insult Obama in front of everyone at the ASEAN Summit. He also went into a tangent accusing the United States of engineering the deteriorating conditions in the southernmost main Philippine island of Mindanao.

The moment his statement went global, president Obama issued his own statement that he was engaging his staff to confer with their Filipino counterparts to see if anything fruitful can still be discussed at the talks, stressing that the anti-drug campaign question cannot be ignored. The decision to cancel came hours later. Duterte is now slated to hold a bilateral conference with President Park Geun- hye of South Korea, who is also present for the ASEAN Summit.

Despite his violent approach to eradicating drugs in his country, along with his abrasive personality and predisposition to hurl insults at anyone he dislike be they world leaders or the Pope, Duterte’s administration continues to enjoy significant support in the Philippines.

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