MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed regret over his "son of a bitch" remark while referring to US President Barack Obama. In a statement read out Tuesday by his spokesman, Duterte said his "strong comments" to certain questions by a reporter "elicited concern and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US president."
Duterte made the remarks Monday before flying to Laos, where he will attend a regional summit. He had been scheduled to meet Obama separately. But Obama indicated that he was having second thoughts about that meeting. Duterte said both sides mutually agreed to postpone the meeting. Even though Duterte's latest comment does not amount to an apology, the expression of regret is a rare instance when the tough-talking former mayor has expressed contrition for his remarks that often slide into profanity. "We look forward to ironing out differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions, and working in mutually responsible ways for both countries," the statement said.
The flap over Duterte's remarks started when a reporter asked him how he intends to explain the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers to Obama. More than 2,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Duterte launched a war on drugs after taking office on June 30. In his typical foul-mouthed style, Duterte responded: "I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions. Putang ina I will swear at you in that forum," he said, using the Tagalog phrase for "son of a bitch." Duterte has earlier cursed the pope and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"Who is he (Obama) to confront me?" Duterte said, adding the Philippines had not received an apology from the United States for misdeeds committed during its colonization of the Philippines. He pointed to the killing of Muslim Moros more than a century ago during a US pacification campaign in the southern Philippines, blaming the wounds of the past as "the reason why (the south) continues to boil" with separatist insurgencies. Last week, Duterte said he was ready to defend his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs, which has sparked concern from the US and other countries. Duterte said he would demand that Obama allow him to first explain the context of his crackdown before engaging the US president in a discussion of the deaths.