Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday expressed regret over his abusive remark while referring to President Barack Obama.
In a statement read out by his spokesman, Mr. 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 U.S. President.”
Mr. Duterte made the remarks on Monday before flying to Laos, where he will attend a regional summit. He had been scheduled to meet Mr. Obama separately. But Mr. Obama indicated that he was having second thoughts about that meeting.
Mr. Duterte said both sides mutually agreed to postpone the meeting.
Even though Mr. 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 Mr. Duterte’s remarks started when a reporter asked him how he intends to explain the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers to Mr. Obama. More than 2,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Mr. Duterte launched a war on drugs after taking office on June 30.
In his typical style, Mr. 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. ****** *** I will swear at you in that forum,” he said,
Mr. Duterte has earlier cursed the Pope and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“Who is he (Mr. Obama) to confront me?” Mr. Duterte said, adding the Philippines had not received an apology from the United States for misdeeds committed during its colonization of the Philippines.
Last week, Mr. Duterte said he was ready to defend his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs, which has sparked concern from the U.S. and other countries.
Mr. Duterte said he would demand that Mr. Obama allow him to first explain the context of his crackdown before engaging the U.S. president in a discussion of the deaths.