Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Monday called US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore”, vowing that he will not be lectured by the US leader on human rights. The two leaders were slated to meet in Laos, which is where Duterte said the exchange might happen. Obama, later in the day, cancelled the meeting with the Philippine President, after US assessed whether this would be the right time to have a constructive conversation with Duterte.
Duterte had made the intemperate remarks Monday before flying to Laos, where he is attending a regional summit. Today, Duterte said both sides mutually agreed to postpone the meeting.
Duterte was elected as president in June. After his election, however, 2400 people have died under his war on drugs. The United Nations and rights groups have condemned the extrajudicial killings but Duterte has shrugged off the criticism and vowed to press his campaign, which includes police carrying out door-to-door searches.
On Tuesday, Duterte expressed regret over the abusive remark. In a statement read out by his spokesman, Duterte said his “strong comments” to certain questions by a reporter “elicited concern and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US president.”
This, however, is not the first time that Duterte has been embroiled in a controversy. Even before he was elected president in June, he was constantly making controversial statements that attracted flak from people. The US is one of the Philippines’ largest trading partners and a key security ally in its fight against terrorism in the country’s south.
Here are five instances when he was in the public gaze for the wrong reasons.
Gang rape joke
Earlier in April, he came under fire for his remarks about Jacqueline Hamill, an Australian law minister, who was brutally raped and murdered in 1989, the Washington Post reported. Referring to the incident at Davao jail where inmates took over the authorities and took 15 people hostage, including the minister, he had reportedly said, “…When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.” The mayor in question was himself. In response to his comment, Twitter started the hashtag #RapeIsNotAJoke. He was, at the time, the Presidential candidate in Philippines and he gained an even greater lead after his remarks, the Washington Post reported.
Declining to meet UN Chief Ban ki-Moon
Last week, Duterte refused to meet United Nations Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, the news website Bangkok Post reported. Duterte did not like the criticism he got from the UN against his government. The website reported that Duterte had launched a tirade against the UN and also threatened to pull out of the union but later withdrew the statement. After Duterte came to power, more than 2000 people are reported to have been killed under his war on drugs. While he maintains that most of the killed persons were drug suspects, he has been accused of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.
Cursing Pope Francis for ‘traffic’
While he was a presidential candidate, Duterte did not spare Pope Francis either. A report by news website Rappler talked about an address during his formal declaration as the presidential candidate when Duterte spoke about how he was late to reach a mall from the hotel he was staying in. He attributed the cause of the delay to the visit of the Pope, who was meeting people in Manila and had caused traffic jams. He had said jokingly, “Pope, you son of a bitch, go home. Don’t visit here anymore.” The statement did not go down well with large sections of the Filipino people who are devout adherents of Christianity. Rappler reported that he had later said he didn’t intend to attack the Pope through his comments. Rather, he was angry at the government for mishandling the situation and the traffic. However, he refused to issue an apology, Rappler reported.
“I don’t care about human rights”
With the death toll of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ constantly rising, he has shown little concern about human rights, quite literally. The website TIME reported that in August this year, Duterte had stated his nonchalance about human rights. “I don’t care about human rights, believe me” he had reportedly said. The statement had caused human rights activists in the country to slam for his indifference to the value of human lives.
“Bloody” war on South China Sea
After the international court ruling that China had no legal rights to claim a huge part of the South China Sea, Duterte made it clear that he would not accept any invasions from the country. An Al Jazeera report in August stated that he said while he was ready to offer peace, if there was an invasion, “it will be bloody and we will not give it to them easily.” He also reportedly said in a press conference that he was ready to ride a jet ski in the disputed South China Sea and plant the Filipino flag on the island.