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MANILA, Philippines – Rodrigo Duterte kept a straight face despite an awkward situation at a tourism forum on Friday, April 8.
The presidential candidate talked about the risk of traveling to Mexico given the incidents of kidnapping and drug-related crime in the country. The hitch? The Mexican ambassador to the Philippines, Julio Camarena Villaseñor, was a member of the audience.
Duterte was in the middle of his usual spiel about the alarming spread of drugs in the Philippines. He repeated his campaign promise to create a safe environment for all, including tourists.
Then he started to talk about traveling to other supposedly unsafe countries.
“Bakit, ikaw ba pupunta ng Mexico ngayon? (Why, are you going to Mexico now?) Could you enjoy going to Mexico with kidnappings and killings there? Drugs. Colombia. Everywhere, America,” he told an audience of around a hundred.
Then he paused for a bit as the audience began laughing.
After a while, he muttered, “Yes, the ambassador is there, I’m sorry.”
The crowd, composed of both Filipinos and foreigners, began to cheer and clap for him, as if to help him recover from the awkward situation.
With a straight face, Duterte seemed to back-pedal by mentioning other countries where drugs is a problem.
“But certainly, there are places in LA [Los Angeles] and in New York where you cannot go…Well, anyway, it could be Russia, it could be Egypt,” he continued, with cheers from the audience.
The Mexican ambassador, Julio Camarena Villaseñor, did not directly answer reporters’ questions on how he felt about Duterte’s statements.
“[Mexico] is a safe country…Mexico receives over 38 million tourists a year. Mexico in 2013 and 2014 was the number one direct investor in the Philippines. We want to be known for all our work and cooperation with the country,” he said.
Duterte, after making his speech, said he does not feel the need to apologize to the ambassador as he was only telling the truth.
“It’s true. I was just talking factually…Why should I apologize? It’s in the newspapers every day,” he said.
Mexico continues its war against drug cartels, a war that has spanned two administrations.
Duterte is known for his frankness, admitting often that he is not a candidate “with the most finesse.”
He has said that, if elected president, he will veer away from holding big and expensive gatherings.
For his oath-taking, for instance, he said he would hold it in the Office of the President instead of the Luneta and serve only drinks to diplomats. – Rappler.com