Duterte skips APEC 2017 gala dinner

Pia Ranada
Duterte skips APEC 2017 gala dinner
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque says the Philippine leader had to coordinate the rescue of Vietnamese nationals held captive by the Abu Sayyaf

MANILA, Philippines – For the second time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte missed the gala dinner of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

Duterte did not show up at the APEC gala dinner for leaders on Friday night, November 10 at Da Nang, Vietnam.

He was represented by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

In a post on Facebook, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr said Duterte could not be present at the dinner because he had to attend to pressing matters.

“The President was not able to attend the gala dinner because of two things: 1. He is attending to urgent ASEAN hosting matters. 2. He is supervising and coordinating safe recovery of Vietnamese captives of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG),” wrote Roque on his Facebook account.

Apparently, the Philippine delegation was not able to inform the summit organizers on time as a place had been set for Duterte at the leaders’ table, complete with name card.

The Philippine leader was to be seated between Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The dinner would have been an opportunity for him to finally meet United States President Donald Trump, who attended the affair.

Last year, at his first APEC summit as Philippine president in Peru, Duterte also skipped the gala dinner, as well as an APEC economic leaders’ retreat, and the traditional APEC leaders’ family photo.

His initial explanation for missing these events was “jet lag,” but he eventuall admitted he skipped these events on purpose to avoid an “awkward situation” with then US president Barack Obama who had expressed concern for his controversial drug war.

In recent days, Duterte had expressed anger over statements by US lawmakers criticizing his drug war.

Two congressmen asked Trump to remind Duterte of the importance of human rights in implementing his campaign against illegal drugs.

For these statements, Duterte has even threatened to put such critical American lawmakers in the Philippines’ immigration black list. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.