Photo via The Wall Street Journal
This past Monday, in response to being called an obscenity, President Obama canceled his scheduled meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Obama was originally planned to meet with Duterte in Laos after attending the G20 summit in China. President Duterte had previously threatened to curse out Obama if he brought up the roughly 2,000 drug-related killings by police that have happened under his watch since assuming office in late June.
On Monday, Duterte stated, “Who does [Obama] think he is? I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people. Son of a bitch, I will swear at you.”
President Duterte came into office with the goal of crack-ing down on the serious drug trafficking problem that the Philippines faces, and heavily campaigned on this vow. There was popular support for his campaign, but with the number of killings rising steadily since he took office, human rights groups, the United States, and the United Nations have taken notice.
On Monday, when Obama first heard of the obscenity said against him, he shrugged it off and said it was another one of his “colorful statements,” calling him “a colorful guy” at the G20 summit in China. He also called the Philippines a close “friend and ally” of the United States.
When Obama first scheduled the meeting, he said that he would not avoid discussing the “international norms” of due process rights in regard to the police killings. “We recognize the significant burden the drug trade plays in the Philippines and around the world… [But] we will always assert the need to have due process and engage the fight against drugs that is consistent with basic international norms. Undoubtedly, if and when we have a meeting, this is going to be something that’s brought up. My expectation, my hope, is that it could be dealt with constructively.”
Before canceling the meeting, Obama suggested that in order for it not to be canceled, Duterte would have to agree to seriously discussing the issue. “I’m just going to make an assessment,” Obama said. However, later on Monday, Ned Price, a spokes-man for the National Security Council, announced that the meeting between Obama and Duterte had been canceled. Instead, Obama had scheduled to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
On Tuesday, President Duterte released a statement voicing his regret for his obscene statements. “We look for-ward to ironing out differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions,” read the statement. The statement also stated that the “son of a bitch” comment was actually directed at the journalist that posed the question provoking Duterte’s statements.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has worked on building the United States’ relationship with the Philippines. Duterte’s statement said that the “meet-ing has been mutually agreed upon to be moved to a later date.”