MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hosts Southeast Asian leaders this week, and there is much interest in how the popular politician who boasts about not being a statesman will handle the event.
Many Filipinos love Duterte, 72, for his man-of-the people habits, such as eating food with his hands, wearing casual clothes even in formal situations and lacing his language with street-level curses.
After meeting on Thursday with Brunei’s Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, he showed he would not hold back when he told reporters that The New York Times newspaper was an “asshole” for criticizing his deadly drug war.
Ahead of his meetings on Saturday with nine other Southeast Asian leaders, here are five of Duterte’s most unstatesmanlike moments since assuming the presidency last year:
Duterte sparked a diplomatic firestorm when, just before flying to last year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Laos, he launched an unprecedented verbal assault on then US president Barack Obama.
“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte said, warning Obama not to raise human rights issues with him.
Obama joined a long list of international figures and organisations Duterte had cursed, including Pope Francis, former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and the European Union.
During the Laos summit, Duterte surprised diplomats by veering off his prepared speech and launching a tirade against US military killings in the Philippines when it was an American colony from 1898 to 1946.
“They invaded this country and made us their subjugated people. Everybody has a terrible record of extrajudicial killings,” Duterte said as he sought to fend off US criticism of his deadly drug war.
One delegate said those in the audience were “quiet and shocked” while another described it as “normal Duterte.”
Duterte was relaxed hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his southern city of Davao in January, wearing casual pants, shoes, a checkered shirt but no socks.
Duterte also decided to take Abe to his home for breakfast where he took his guest into his bedroom to show him his “old and favorite mosquito net.”
Duterte’s casual demeanor and attire while on overseas trips have made international headlines.
While in Beijing last year, Duterte chewed gum and walked with hands in his pockets during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A photo of his meeting with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni last year showing him with rolled-up sleeves and an open collar also prompted social media comments that he was rude and a “culture shock”, according to Cambodian press.
‘Happy to slaughter’
Duterte caused a global furor last year for drawing parallels between his drug war and the Holocaust, drawing condemnation from Jewish groups.
“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte said.
Duterte later apologized to the Jewish community but said he was “emphatic” about being to happy to kill drug addicts. AFP