President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he intentionally skipped the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting and other key events in Lima, Peru because he wanted to avoid an “awkward situation” with outgoing US President Barack Obama.
Speaking before members of the Wallace Business Forum in Malacañang on Monday night, the President said having a bum stomach was just an excuse for his absence in major events at his first APEC meeting.
“There was this awful criticism about me. That I was not there. I asked [Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto] Yasay [Jr.] to stand in for me. I was there. I attended the meetings actually. Do not believe those idiots there outside. But you know, Obama was there. And because we had an exchange of words, I was just trying to avoid an awkward situation,” he said.
Duterte said he feared that Obama would not accept his “gesture of handshake or his getting out of the way to avoid him.”
“You can tell it by just looking at the body language of people. You would know. And because I did not want to create a scene, an awkward situation, I just stayed on the sidelines. That’s the truth. I was avoiding an awkward situation especially an international awkward behavior,” the President added.
To avoid Obama, Duterte missed several important events including the gala dinner hosted by Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kucynzski, the Leaders’ Retreat and the traditional “family photo” of APEC leaders. In all these events, he was represented by Yasay.
Duterte himself earlier confirmed the bum stomach excuse given by his spokesmen.
On Monday, he told reporters not to believe the earlier excuse. “I did not have a bum stomach. Do not believe it. That was just an excuse but really I avoided it. I would not know how to react if he [Obama] would just push my hand [away]because we had a very hot exchange of words.”
Duterte also previously admitted that he intentionally skipped the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-US Summit in Laos last September as a “matter of principle.”
Aside from skipping the Asean-US Summit, he was also unable to attend the Asean-United Nations Summit and the Asean-India Summit.
The White House earlier called out possible human rights violations in Duterte’s violent drug war.
Duterte responded by lashing out at Obama, telling him to “go to hell” and called him a “son of bitch.”