President-elect Donald Trump has invited his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte to the White house in a phone conversation Friday that one Duterte aid described as “animated.”
The call was the first one-on-one exchange between the two leaders.
While there is at press time no word on the details of the call, presidential aid Christopher Bong Go posted a photo of Duterte speaking to Trump on his Facebook page.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay confirmed that the two would be speaking “within the next few days” in a conversation on Philippine television earlier this week. He did not specify what the two leaders would discuss, only noting, “We are really harping on.. fundamental changes [that are worthy] so we can be able to pursue our independent foreign policy.”
Yasay added that, despite Duterte’s statements calling for closer military cooperation with China and Russia, “we are not undertaking military alliance with anyone else.”
On Friday, presidential spokeswoman Ana Marie Banaag confirmed the conversation was set for Friday evening Manila time, though “she does not have yet any information on what the talking points would be,” according to ABS-CBN. The news outlet notes that Trump has been clear in his belief that Duterte had exhibited “a lack of respect for our country” in statements regarding President Barack Obama.
Duterte has repeatedly referred to the outgoing president as a “son of a whore,” and dismissed U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg as an “annoying homosexual son of whore.” The most glowing praise Duterte has had for any Obama administration official has been for Secretary of State John Kerry, who he has referred to as “okay.”
Following Trump’s election, Duterte began to change his attitude. “I don’t want to fight because Trump is there,” he said the day after the election. “I would like to congratulate President Trump. Mabuhay ka (May you live)!”
“We both curse. For any small reason, we curse. We are kind of similar,” Duterte said of Trump. He has since humbly referred to himself as “just a president struggling barely to (swim) just above the water,” adding, “I don’t think we can be compared” when asked about Trump.
“We don’t have any quarrels. I can always be a friend to anybody especially to a president, a chief executive of another country. He has not meddled in the human rights,” Duterte said of Trump on another occasion. Duterte’s tenure has largely revolved around his “war on drugs,” in which he has encouraged police to conduct extrajudicial killings and offered bounties to civilians who kill drug suspects. Duterte has hurled profanities at anyone who has referred to these actions as human rights violations, in particular responding to the European Union with the statement, “Fuck you.”
Duterte’s allies in the Philippine government have been as positive as Duterte himself.
“Trump acknowledged that much change is needed both in America and the world. Just as President Duterte campaigned for real change,” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a close Duterte ally, said following the election. “Both leaders recognized the need for but were often criticized for their being frank and saying things that the political and business elite thought shouldn’t be said.”
Trump will still be competing for Duterte’s good graces with longtime American rivals China and Russia. Duterte has expressed particular affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin, with observers describing Duterte as a “starstruck schoolboy” following his first in-person meeting with the Russian head of state. Duterte said following that meeting that Putin had offered to sell the Philippine military weapons at a “buy one, get one free” rate.
Duterte has referred to both Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping as “close friends,” despite the latter’s military campaign to invade and colonize pivotal Philippine territories in the South China Sea.