On Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte admitted he was purposely absent from a group photo and gala at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Peru to avoid an uncomfortable encounter with US President Barack Obama. Duterte confessed that he was not telling the truth when he originally claimed that he was not feeling well.
“I was there. I attended the meetings, actually. Do not believe those idiots out there. But you know, Obama was there, and because we had an exchange of words, I was just trying to avoid an awkward situation,” he said during a speech at the Wallace Business Forum, citing concerns that Obama would reject his “gesture of handshake or his getting out of the way to avoid him.”
Duterte said, “Because I did not want to create a scene, an awkward situation, I just stayed on the sidelines. That’s the truth, I was avoiding an awkward situation, especially an international awkward behavior…I did not have a bum stomach; do not believe it. That was just an excuse. But really, I would not know how to react if he would just push my hand.” according to Philstar.
In September the leader also admitted to skipping a scheduled meeting with Obama at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-US in Laos, “as a matter of principle.”
After presidential spokesman Martin Andanar claimed that Duterte was suffering from a migraine, Duterte later said, “I did attend, but I purposely did not attend the bilateral talks between ASEAN countries and the ambassador of the President of the United States. [I intentionally skipped those meetings]. I attended all others… The reason is not [because] I am anti-West. The reason is not I do not like the Americans. It’s simply a matter of principle for me,” according to ABS-CBN News.
Tensions between Duterte and the Obama administration increased after Washington voiced concerns over possible human rights violations taking place in Manila’s ongoing anti-drug campaign, which has claimed close to 2,000 lives since Duterte took office in June.
In August US State Department spokesman Mark Toner remarked, “We continue to make clear to the Philippines government…our concern about human rights, extrajudicial killings, but we are also committed to our bilateral relationship and strengthening that bilateral relationship.”
Duterte responded angrily to the comment, calling the US President a “son a whore,” which prompted the Obama administration to cancel a scheduled meeting at the ASEAN conference.
In November former Philippine President Fidel Ramos denounced Duterte’s behavior, saying, “As president, it is his duty to be there at all times even if he’s not feeling well.”
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