ON THE eve of his meeting with US President Barack Obama, President Rodrigo Duterte attacked the United States for questioning his administration’s human rights record in its war on illegal drugs, and pointed to the brutality of America’s own “pacification” campaign in the Philippines in the early 1900s.
“You know, the Philippines is not a vassal state. We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States,” Dutere said in Davao City before leaving for Laos to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, where he is scheduled for a one-on-one with Obama.
Duterte bristled when journalists asked if he would discuss the rise of extra-judicial killings under his administration with Obama.
“I do not respond to anybody but to the people of the Republic of the Philippines. I don’t care about him. Who is he?” Duterte said.
“As a matter of a fact, at a turn of the century, before the Americans left the Philippines in the pacification campaign… in this island, there were about six million [Moros]. How many died? Six hundred thousand. If he can answer that question and give an apology, I will answer him,” Duterte said.
But, when asked in China whether he would push through with the planned meeting with Duterte, Obama said he still hopes to hold constructive talks with Duterte although he asked his team to find out if it was the time to pursue productive bilateral talks.
“I just came out of a long day of meetings. I just heard about some of this. But I have seen some of those colorful statements in the past. And so clearly he’s a colorful guy,” Obama told reporters.
“What I’ve instructed my team to do is talk to their Philippine counterparts to find out is this in fact a time where we can have constructive, productive conversations,” he said.
“Obviously, the Filipino people are some of our closest friends and allies. And the Philippines is a treaty ally of ours. But I always wanna make sure, that if I’m having a meeting, that it’s actually productive and we’re getting something done,” he added.
“We recognize the significant burden that the drug trade plays not just in the Philippines but around the world and fighting narco-trafficking is tough,” said the American leader.
“But we will always assert the need to have due process and to engage in that fight against drugs in a way that’s consistent with basic international norms. And so undoubtedly, if and when we have a meeting, this is something that’s gonna be brought up. And my expectation, my hope is it could be dealt with constructively,” he added.
The President was also angered when a reporter used the term “extrajudicial” killings—and said some columnists were writing like “lapdogs of this American.”
“Why don’t you leave the country and go to America?” Duterte told the reporter in an expletive-filled response.
“Who is he to confront me? As a matter of fact, America has one too many...misdeeds in this country [to answer for]. Up to now, we have not received any apology. That is the reason Mindanao continues to boil,” said Duterte, in a mix of Filipino and English.
Duterte said he was beholden to nobody and appeared irked about a column that attacked his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“That columnist [who said] ‘wait until he meets,’ who is he? I am a President of the sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master, except the Filipino people,” Duterte said.
He then attacked the United States record as a colonial power in the Philippines.
“They invaded this country and made us their subjugated people. Everybody has a terrible record of extrajudicial killings. Why make an issue about fighting crime? They cannot even address the Mexico border problem. Look at the human rights of America along that line, the way how they treat the migrants there. He [Obama] must explain to me why there are extrajudicial killings there. Can he explain the 600,000 Moros massacred in this island? Do you want to see the pictures? Maybe, you’ll ask him, and make it public. We have a recorded history of that sordid period of our national life,” Duterte said.
“What about the rights of those guys who died in the past?”
“Who is Obama to ask me that? I’ll tell him, who are you? Tell him that,” Duterte said.
Duterte also said that he will continue his campaign against illegal drugs, and warned that a lot of pushers will die.
“The campaign against drugs will continue. Many will die. Plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets. Until the drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue and I will continue, and I don’t give a sh*t about anybody observing my behavior,” Duterte said.
Duterte, who is being criticized for his bloody war against illegal drug syndicates, also blasted unnamed columnists for acting like “lapdogs” of Obama and the US.
On Sept. 2, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama will not pull any punches on human rights during his meeting with Duterte.
Duterte previously said that Obama needs to listen to him and understand the illegal drugs situation in the country before discussing human rights issues during their meeting.
Earlier, Duterte was more conciliatory, saying he had no objections to explaining the rise in the deaths of drug suspects to Obama.
He said he had no intention of quarreling with Obama, but said he would not let him question him about Philippine problems.
Duterte and Obama are set to meet today (Tuesday) at a hotel in Vientiane at 5 p.m. Manila time.
The US, a long-time ally of the Philippines, has criticized Duterte over a rise in extrajudicial killings in its war on illegal drugs.
At the same time, Obama is expected to extend his condolences to Duterte over the deaths of 14 in the recent bomb attack in Davao City.
The United States also signified its intention to provide assistance in the investigation, an offer that Manila has turned down.
Duterte is also set to hold meetings with other leaders, including with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Palace has yet to announce if Duterte will also meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang or UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
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