MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's absence at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-US Summit was intentional, he himself admitted on Monday, September 12.
"I purposely did not attend the bilateral talks between ASEAN countries and the ambassador of the president of the United States. Talagang iniskip ko ‘yun. (I really skipped it.) I attended all others," said Duterte during a Metrobank Foundation event held at Malacañang Palace.
Duterte said his reason for skipping the event was not so much anti-Western sentiment as his "principles."
"The reason is not I am anti-West, the reason is not I do not like the Americans. It is simply a matter of principle for me," he added.
Duterte did not elaborate on what principles he was referring to but right after, he spoke of his war on drugs.
"Had I not been elected as president of this republic, masyadong kawawa ang bayan (the country would be too pitiful)," he said.
"We never thought that the drug problem was that widespread. It starts with the use and it ends up with the dysfunctional family," said Duterte.
He recalled how he was the "favorite whipping boy" of a "certain lady" and other sectors concerned about the human rights violations being linked to his campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte said he had even told US President Barack Obama about the time he ordered 3 persons, supposedly involved in drugs, to be shot for raping the wife of a policeman.
"In front of Obama, sinabi ko, I related to him, 'Pinatay ko 'yung tatlo.' I made them pay for what they did. Pinatay ko. Walang kaawa-awa. Pity is not one of my virtues," he said.
(In front of Obama, I said, I related to him, 'I killed the 3.' I made them pay for what they did. I killed them. No mercy. Pity is not one of my virtues.)
Duterte expressed his lack of confidence in the justice system which he supposedly experienced firsthand as a prosecutor in Davao City in the 1980s.
"At least I don't have cases of graft and corruption but here I was really a hardliner because I was a prosecutor, I am a lawyer. Many times I saw cases falling apart because of corruption. My evidence turns to dust, my witnesses are intimidated," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The President also confirmed that he ditched a speech he was to give at the ASEAN Summit. In one such speech, he was supposed to have mentioned the historic Hague ruling on the West Philippine Sea.
"Binigay ako ng national security adviser ng speech. Hindi na ako nagbabasa ng speech... Tinapon ko. I do not read my speeches," he said.
(The national security adviser gave me a speech. I didn't read the speech... I threw it away. I do not read my speeches.) – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.