Locsin apologizes to China over expletives after Duterte says only he can curse

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr has apologized to China for cursing the regional giant in a tweet, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that only he can use expletives in diplomacy.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Locsin mentioned his apology in their phone call on Tuesday morning, May 4.

"Secretary Locsin told me that he personally apologized to Chinese Ambassador [Huang Xilian] and that his words were just due to things that gave him a hot head," Roque said in Filipino during a press briefing in Parañaque City.

While President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly did not tell Locsin to apologize, Roque said the Chief Executive gave instructions to the Cabinet not to use curse words in speaking about matters of diplomacy.

"Ang mensahe ng Presidente, sa larangan ng diplomasya, wala pong lugar ang pagmumura. At ang mensahe ng President sa buong gabinete, ang Presidente lang ang puwedeng magmura. Wala pong puwedeng gumaya sa kanya," said Roque.

(The message of the President is, in the field of diplomacy, cursing has no place. The message of the President to the Cabinet is, only the President can curse. No one can copy him.)

On Monday, Locsin told China to "get the fuck out," pertaining to Chinese ships still in the West Philippine Sea.

“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE F*** OUT," were the top Philippine diplomat's actual words.

During Duterte's Monday night speech, he made no mention of Locsin but said that the Philippines does not have to be "rude and disrespectful" even in the face of Chinese incursions in the country's waters.

But Duterte himself has used foul language in his brand of diplomacy, cursing at former US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis and threatening to slap international human rights officials. Rappler has documented many of such diatribes in our "Duterte Insult List."

Locsin curses 'not Philippine policy'

The Palace clarified that Locsin's remarks were "not the policy of the Philippines."

The Duterte administration, dependent on a supply of Sinovac vaccines from China to fulfill its vaccine rollout timeline, clarified that the maritime disagreement should not get in the way of "deep cooperation in pandemic response."

Roque then devoted several minutes to presenting various Chinese aid to the Philippines, including Chinese-funded bridges in Metro Manila, over one million doses of donated vaccines, and $10 million worth of cash and in-kind aid for calamities and natural disasters.

Recto praises Locsin

Not everyone thought Locsin crossed a line.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto even praised Locsin for his manner of speaking, calling the foreign secretary the country's "best weapon in a shouting war."

"While we may not have missiles to launch, we possess something more potent – Locsin missives, against which no shield has been proven effective," Recto said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Senate leader said being tactful has not deterred China from violating the Philippines' sovereign rights.

"It is time to convey our dismay in a language they can understand," said Recto.

The Philippines has filed a series of diplomatic protests against China, ever since authorities reported the presence of over 200 Chinese ships in Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

Prior to his statement about China and the West Philippine Sea, Duterte held a roughly one-hour meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who had also used strong language in relation to China's latest incursion in the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.