Jakarta. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday (09/09) denied reports he had called US President Barack Obama obscenities earlier in the week.
The comments, which saw Duterte label the out-going US president a “son of a bitch,” led to the cancellation of a high profile meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the 28th Asean Summit in Vientiane. Duterte appeared to have escalated the scandal later in the week after he demanded the US respect Philippine sovereignty and brandished photographs of Filipinos killed during the US occupation of the archipelago at the East Asia Summit on Thursday.
Speaking to an event in Jakarta, attended by 700 of the city’s Filipino community, the colorful president said the controversy is blamed on the mistranslation of a commonly used Tagalog slang term.
In a shock pivot, Duterte used his speech to praise China, despite on-going South China Sea tensions.
“Only China is helping us,” he said, as reported by local media.
“China helped to build rehab [centers for drug users]. They’re bringing materials. Only China is helping us.”
Duterte’s war on drugs and crime has earned rebukes from leaders across the globe, including Obama and top human rights organizations, but is praised in Manila where he enjoys high support among voters.
Duterte is in Jakarta as part of his first international visits since becoming president in June. He is expected to discuss maritime security, regional terrorism and Filipino drug convict Mary Jane Veloso with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.