JAKARTA, Indonesia—Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday he told President Barack Obama during their encounter in Laos that he never cursed him.
On a visit to Indonesia, Duterte told the Filipino community there that he told Obama: “President Obama, I’m President Duterte. I never made that statement, check it out.”
He said that Obama responded: “’My men will talk to you,’ and he replied ‘OK.”’
Duterte blamed the media for distorting his words, saying he did utter “son of a bitch” but it was not directed at Obama.
Before travelling to Laos for regional summits, Duterte said Monday that Obama should not question him about the rising death toll in his war on drugs, which has been criticized abroad and by Duterte’s opponents in the Philippines. More than 2,800 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed since Duterte took office.
Asked how he would explain the killings to Obama, he said in a long answer that the Philippines has long ceased to be a colony of the United States and he ddid not have a master except the Filipino people.
“I do not care about him. Who is he?” Duterte said. “You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions and statements. Putang Ina, I will swear at you at that forum,” he added, using the Tagalog phrase for “son of a bitch.”
Obama then cancelled a meeting with Duterte in Laos but the two met informally on Wednesday in a holding room before attending a gala dinner.
Duterte, who assumed the presidency in June, has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S., his country’s longtime treaty ally. He has said he is charting a foreign policy not dependent on the U.S., and has moved to reduce tensions with China over rival territorial claims.
He also said he showed a picture of an atrocity during the U.S. pacification campaign in the southern Philippines at the beginning of the last century at the East Asia Summit in Laos that included Obama, in order to stop criticism over human rights violations in the war on illegal drugs. The photograph showed about 200 dead Filipino Moros stacked in a common pit, with an American soldier holding a rifle while stepping on the breasts of a naked Moro woman.
He said he told the leaders, “This is human rights, what do you intend to do?” and “Human rights violations whether committed by Moses or Abraham, is still violation of human rights.”
The whole room was silent and he waited for Obama to respond but he remained quiet, Duterte said.