Obama, Duterte clash over brutal crime war


VIENTIANE: US President Barack Obama urged Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte Thursday to conduct his crime war “the right way”, as the pair clashed at an Asian summit over the crackdown that has claimed 3,000 lives.

The showdown was a fitting climax to a brutal few days of diplomacy that began with the famously acid-tongued Duterte branding Obama a “son of a whore”.

After warnings from Duterte that he would not be lectured on his crime war—which is seeing police and shadowy assassins kill an average of 44 people a day—Obama urged the Philippine leader to respect the rule of law.

“As despicable as these (crime) networks may be and as much damage as they do, it is important from our perspective to make sure that we do it the right way,” Obama told reporters when asked about his conversation with Duterte on the sidelines of Laos meetings.

“Because the consequences of when you do it the wrong way are innocent people get hurt and you have a bunch of unintended consequences that don’t solve the problem.”

Obama’s call came shortly after Duterte gave what diplomats said was a “fiery” address to leaders of the 18-nation East Asia group, including Obama.

Veering off his prepared speech, Duterte launched into a tirade about US military killings in the Philippines when it was an American colony from 1898 to 1946, according to three diplomats Agence France-Presse spoke with who were in the room.

“The Philippine president showed a picture of the killings of American soldiers in the past and the president said: ‘This is my ancestor they killed. Why now we are talking about human rights,” an Indonesian delegate said.

Th delegate described the atmosphere in the room as “quiet and shocked”.

‘Normal Duterte’

Another diplomat described the speech as “normal Duterte”.

Duterte set the tone for the week when, just before flying to Laos on Monday, he launched a barrage of insults at Obama in response to the US president’s plans to question him over his war on drugs.

“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte told reporters shortly before flying to Laos.

At the press conference marking the end of his trip to Laos, Obama said he was unfazed by Duterte’s slur.

“I don’t take these comments personally because it seems as if this is a phrase he’s used repeatedly including directed at the pope and others,” Obama said.

He added that such choice words were “a habit, a way of speaking for him.”

Duterte has branded Pope Francis, the US ambassador to Manila and the United Nations as “sons of whores.”

However Obama cancelled a meeting with Duterte scheduled for Tuesday because of the outburst.

They met on Wednesday night before a leaders’ dinner in what Obama described as “not a long interaction”.

‘More will be killed’

Duterte has said the Philippines is in danger of becoming a “narco state”, and eliminating drugs in society is the top priority of his administration.

Duterte was elected to office in a landslide this year after pledging to kill 100,000 people in an unprecedented war on crime.

He vowed in the campaign that so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish there would grow fat from feeding on them.

Duterte has also repeatedly promised to protect police from prosecution if they are charged over the deaths and insisted human rights cannot get in the way of his war.

On the day he was sworn into office, June 30, Duterte urged people living in a Manila slum to kill drug addicts in their community.

His handpicked police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, last month called for drug addicts to kill traffickers and burn down their homes.

The United Nations special rapporteur on summary executions has warned incitement to kill is a crime under international law.

However Duterte has remained unrepentant.

“More people will be killed, plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets,” Duterte said on Monday. AFP











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  1. I saw the actual live video. I heard it right. I reviewed, analyzed and dissected it so many times. I talked to others. I heard and read others’ conclusions, pros and cons. As a conscientious listener I could not be probably wrong on what I heard which is actually this article is talking about. President Duterte did not swear on President Obama. He was specifically referring to that reported who threw the question despite PRRD’s warning. And if that reporter would be in that forum- sure he will be PI -ed! End of argument.


    Earlier this September 5, Duterte gave a 5-minute speech informing the country that he is about to go to Laos for the ASEAN summit. I transcribed the whole speech and included the video below this article. This is for the people to know the whole story.

    After giving his speech, he asked the audience for questions and clarifications, saying:

    “Any questions? I will give you a few.. for clarification for the statement only. Do not come more on to politics. It’s too far away.”

    Despite his warning of not going too far, one reporter asked him:

    “Sir, there have been concerns on extrajudicial killings, sir. And you will meet leaders, any line of communication that we have prepared to address this issue in front of other foreign leaders?”

    To which Duterte replied:

    “To whom shall I address myself to? Who will be asking the question? May I know?”

    Somebody from the audience said “Like Obama, Sir.” And that started it all. Here is his answer:

    “You know, the Philippines is not a vassal state. We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States. Alam mo marame dyan mga kolumnista (You know there are a lot of columnists) who look up on Obama and the United States as if we are the lapdogs of this coutry.”

    In this statement, Duterte was clearly addressing his audience, Obama’s name was only mentioned as an example because somebody in the audience mentioned Obama. I am not a Duterte-fan, but anybody listening to that line, who understands the language will know that he is not degrading Obama, he is merely lifting his people up. He ended it by saying:

    “I do not respond to anybody but the people of the Republic of the Philippines”

    Now, this is the part that gets dirty. In trying to lift his people, he was subconsciously saying something that can be used against him. Again, from our point of view, his point is that the Philippines should never bow down to any country, there is nothing against President Obama, his name was just dragged.

    “Wala akong pakelam sakanya (I don’t care about him). Who is he? I am not beholden to anybody.”

    After this, he went on and addressed the columnists.

    “May mga kolumnista dyan na (There are columnists out there that write headlines such as) ‘Wait until he meets..’ Who is he? I am a President of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people.”

    The next line is addressed to the reporter who asked the question, not to Obama as the media is claiming:

    “You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Putangina (son of a bitch) I will curse you in that forum.”

    As a clarification, Duterte is referring to reporters who are not respectful and are throwing questions at him that are not on topic.