HANGZHOU, China: US President Barack Obama on Monday called a planned meeting with Rodrigo Duterte into question after the Philippine leader launched a foul-mouthed tirade against him.
“He’s a colourful guy,” Obama joked on the eve of the scheduled face-to-face, before pointedly noting: “I always want to make sure if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive.”
Duterte was elected in May after a promise to wage an unprecedented war on illegal drugs that would see tens of thousands of suspects killed.
Official figures released Sunday show that, since Duterte took office on June 30, over 2,400 people have been killed in police anti-drug operations and by suspected vigilantes.
Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Obama said Washington recognized that drugs were a significant problem for the Philippines, but insisted that he would not shy away from raising concerns over the way it was being dealt with under the new administration.
“The issue of how we approach fighting crime and drug trafficking is a serious one for all of us. We’ve got to do it the right way,” he said.
“Undoubtedly, if and when we have a meeting, this is something that’s going to be brought up. And my expectation, my hope, is that it could be dealt with constructively.”
Duterte has angrily rejected criticism of his war on drugs from the Catholic Church, human rights groups, legislators and the United Nations.
And he vowed Monday the bloodbath would continue as he pursued his goal of eradicating illegal narcotics in the Philippines.
“More people will be killed, plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets. Until the (last) drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue and I will continue,” he said.
Duterte insisted he would not take orders from the United States, a former colonial ruler of the Philippines, and did not care about how he was perceived.
“I don’t give a shit about anybody observing my behavior,” he said.