By Alison Barnett
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has attracted international attention after referring to President Obama as a “son of a bitch” before a meeting between the two leaders, which had been planned for earlier this month in Laos.
Before heading to Laos for a summit, President Duterte spoke about his plans, saying that President Obama should avoid questioning him about recent extrajudicial killings of supposed drug addicts, or “son of a bitch, I will swear at you in that forum.” Duterte has taken a very strict stance against drug addicts and dealers in the Philippines, telling citizens to bypass the judicial system and take the drug problem into their own hands.
After his inauguration in June, he said in a speech that “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” Since the beginning of his administration, over 2,400 people have been killed, many by vigilante killers, or killed by the authorities without a trial.
He was elected in part because of his tough anti-drug stance, having built his reputation as mayor of Davao, a city in The Philippines.
These killings have caused concern among human rights groups, and even some Filipino leaders have spoken out against Duterte’s methods of justice. The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are among these groups.
President Duterte publically called President Obama a “son of a bitch” and a meeting between the two leaders was cancelled as a result.
Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Philippines Researcher told “The Independent” that “[f]ar from serving as a ‘quick-fix’, such killings violate both Philippines and international law, lead to the deaths of innocent people, and divert attention from long term measures that address crime effectively,” and that “Suspects should be arrested, investigated, tried in a court which is the only authority allowed to mete out punishments. Allowing law enforcement officials to take the law into their own hands will deliver neither the justice people in the Philippines need, nor the security
the authorities seek.”
After these remarks, President Obama decided not to meet with President Duterte, cancelling the planned meeting between the two leaders and instead meeting with Park Geunhye, the president of South Korea.
He referred to Duterte as a “colorful guy,” inspiring comparisons with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is also known for dramatic and sometimes vulgar language. Obama had also spoken with his staff about whether such a meeting would be productive, and decided not to go through with it.
The Philippines has a complicated history with the United States, having been taken as a colony from Spain in the wake of the Spanish-American war at the turn of the 20th century. While the country became independent after World War II, the U.S. has still been an important force in Filipino politics.
In the same pre-summit press conference, Duterte said “Who does he 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,” raised concerns that the Philippines may be pulling away from the U.S.