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Duterte ‘Regrets’ Obama ‘Son of a Whore’ Remark, but Does Not Apologize

The office of the presidency of the Philippines has released a statement expressing “regret” that President Barack Obama canceled a one-on-one meeting with his Filipino counterpart, President Rodrigo Duterte, after the latter referred to Obama as a “son of a whore.”

Noting that the insult “elicited concern and distress,” Duterte’s presidential spokesman read a statement Tuesday saying his nation “regret[s] it came across as a personal attack on the U.S. president.”

Referring to President Obama’s assertion that he would be clear in expressing concern about Duterte’s hardline approach in eradicating drug crime, on Monday, Duterte said Obama “must be respectful. You don’t just throw away questions and statements. ‘Putang ina’ mo murahin kita diyan sa forum na ‘yan [son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum].”

The most generous translation of Duterte’s remark argues that he is threatening to curse at Obama during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference, indicating that “putang ina” (“whore mother”) is being used as an interjection here, not a noun describing the President himself. The use of such outrageous language, regardless of whether it was intended to insult the President directly – or merely threaten to insult him in the future – was enough for their meeting to be canceled.

“President Obama will not be holding a bilateral meeting with President Duterte of the Philippines this afternoon,” National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price confirmed Tuesday morning. The confirmation followed President Obama telling reporters he doubted the meeting would occur because, he said, “I always want to make sure that if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive, and that we’re getting something done.”

The Philippine Star notes that Duterte’s office is claiming that “both sides mutually agreed to postpone the meeting.”

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has also weighed in on the canceled meeting with a similar statement to the presidential office. “President Duterte explained that the press reports that President Obama would ‘lecture’ him on extrajudicial killings led to his strong comments, which in turn elicited concern. He regrets that his remarks to the press have caused much controversy,” the statement reads.

“He expressed his deep regard and affinity for President Obama and for the enduring partnership between our nations,” the statement continues, though it does not indicate whether he did so for the purposes of the statement or sent a message saying so to Obama personally.

While his latest comments against Obama were among his most egregious to date, Duterte has expressed scant respect for the American government since taking office in June, despite relying heavily on the American military to protect the Philippines’ territories in the South China Sea. In August, Duterte referred to U.S. Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg as a “homosexual” “son of a whore … who really annoys me,” a remark for which he has not apologized. (In contrast, Duterte referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as “okay.”)

Duterte has harangued Obama over police brutality in black American communities, American military activity in the Philippines before the nation’s independence, and Hollywood’s allegedly “crazy” cocaine problem.

In contrast, Duterte has made significantly warmer remarks to America’s enemy states. He expressed genuine excitement at meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and agreed to shelve an international tribunal decision against China in the South China Sea, stating that going to war with China would be a “massacre” for Manila. Duterte has also attempted ceasefires with Communist and Islamist terrorist groups active in the Philippines, both of which have failed.

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