President Barack Obama just canceled his first meeting with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, after Duterte described Obama as a “son of a bitch”.
Duterte, a populist known for his colorful (and often vulgar) remarks and his campaign against illegal drugs in which thousands of people have died, described Obama as a “son of a b****” to reporters on Monday, a day ahead of the planned meeting in Laos, where South Asian leaders are meeting for annual summits.
Obama learned about the insult as he emerged from the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China. At a news conference, he said he had told his aides to speak with Philippine officials “to find out is this, in fact, a time where we can have some constructive, productive conversations,” leaving little doubt that the meeting would proceed as planned.
Obama said, “I always want to make sure that if I’m having a meeting, that it’s actually productive and we’re getting something done.”
The White House had said Obama did not plan to pull any punches on his concerns about human rights abuses in the Philippines, its treaty ally, when meeting Duterte.
Duterte won the presidency in May as he promised to suppress crime and wipe out drugs and drug dealers, and a wave of extrajudicial killings has followed. Duterte said it would be “rude” for Obama to raise the human rights issue, and told reporters such a conversation would prompt him to curse at Obama, using a Filipino phrase for “son of a bitch.”