FIREBRAND President Rodrigo Duterte has sparked a fresh diplomatic row with his colorful language, calling the United States ambassador “gay” in comments that prompted Washington to summon Manila’s envoy to complain.
In the latest of a series of tirades, Duterte used a Tagalog [word for gay]to express his displeasure with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg in televised comments made Friday.
“As you know, I’m fighting with (US Secretary of State John Kerry’s) ambassador. His gay ambassador, the son of a whore. He pissed me off,” Duterte said.
Duterte, 71, surged to power with a landslide in May following an incendiary campaign in which he gleefully used foul language to disrespect authority figures, from his local political rivals to the Pope.
He first came into conflict with Goldberg on the campaign trail after Duterte said he should have been the first to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who was sexually assaulted and murdered in a 1989 prison riot in Davao, the city he ran for two decades.
Duterte later explained that he used “gutter language” understood by the masses.
Goldberg and the Australian ambassador strongly criticized these comments.
“He meddled during the elections, giving statements here and there. He was not supposed to do that,” Duterte said Friday.
The US State Department said the Filipino charge d’affaires, Patrick Chuasoto, was summoned Monday to discuss Duterte’s comments.
“We had that conversation,” department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said. “I think what we were seeking is perhaps a better understanding of why that statement was made,” she added.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose confirmed the meeting but said Manila’s envoy had been “invited to the State Department to discuss the entire breadth of Philippines-US relations.”
“Philippine-US relations remain strong,” he told AFP Wednesday.
Cuisia defends Goldberg
Former ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. rushed to Goldberg’s defense.
The President’s remark was “inappropriate and unfortunate,” Cuisia told The Manila Times, noting that Washington is Manila’s key ally.
The Philippines is the US’ oldest Asian partner and a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally.
“The US ambassador is still the highest representative of the US government, an ally of the Philippines that has been providing us a lot of military and economic assistance,” Cuisia said.
Over the last six years, the Philippines has received $1.3 billion in military and economic assistance from the US, Cuisia said.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone, not just for the President, to say that to the US ambassador to the Philippines,” he stressed.
Cuisia, 72, was earlier offered by the Duterte administration to continue his diplomatic duties, but he refused.
Cuisia also said he shared the State Department’s concern over the rising number of killings of suspects linked to illegal drug activities in the Philippines.
“The US, while it supports the battle against illegal drugs, they hope that the rule of law and protection of human rights will be followed by the Philippine government,” he said.
“Personally, I think due process must be provided to those who have been accused of violating drug laws,” he added.