Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
After a long day hosting various activities of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, President Rodrigo Duterte joked that he prefers to cancel another ASEAN summit to be held in the country in November.
"Anak ka ng – kung ganito lang naman ang mga summit, kanselado na ‘yung sa November (Son of a – if this is what summits are about, the November one is canceled)," he joked in front of Philippine and foreign media on Saturday night, April 29.
These were his first words at a press conference he was giving to report on accomplishments of the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings hosted by the Philippines as ASEAN chair this year.
Duterte, not particularly fond of formal where protocol has to be observed, complained that international summits are "all the same."
"Totoo. Pareho naman. Wala naman nagbago. Totoo. Puwede na siguro. We can do away ‘yung sa November," he said, to the amusement of the over 100 journalists in the room.
(It's true. All the same. Nothing changes. It's true. I think it will be okay. We can do away with the one in November.)
He joked that someone from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which takes the lead in organizing these gatherings, wanted him to stop hosting summits.
"Iyong Foreign Affairs, si, sa… 'Sir, huwag ka na mag-summit-summit dito,'" said the Philippine President.
(Someone from Foreign Affairs said, 'Sir, let's not hold summits here.)
The 30th ASEAN Summit is the first international summit hosted by the Philippines under the Duterte presidency.
In previous international gatherings, the Philippine president raised some eyebrows by missing events with other country leaders.
The Philippines will host the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in November, this time in Clark Freeport in Pampanga. Aside from the 10 ASEAN leaders, leaders from ASEAN's dialogue partners are expected to attend the November meeting, among them, US President Donald Trump.
Shooting the breeze with media
Duterte seemed to relish the press conference as an opportunity to talk casually, after a whole day of being bound by rules and time limits.
He also joked that the ASEAN chairman's statement, a document awaited by media, would be released "probably next year" or "when there is a Korean war."
Confessing he likes to talk "more than he likes to eat," Duterte said he preferred to be late for the gala dinner with other ASEAN leaders than to cut the press conference short.
"Dinner is at 8:45 [pm] I’ll give you til 1 o'clock," said Duterte, eliciting laughter from journalists.
The President is known to give hours-long press conferences, some beginning late at night till the wee hours of the morning.
He even invited the journalists to join the dinner, though the organizing committee limited coverage to only photographers, and only for the first part of the event, as had been done in past ASEAN gala dinners.
Calling his aide, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, Duterte said, "Putangina Bong, paano sila (Son of a bitch, Bong, how about them)? You are invited, we can add tables and chairs there."
After taking a few questions, however, Palace staff approached him to say the ASEAN leaders and other gala dinner guests could not eat until he arrived.
Duterte then ended the press conference, but not before suggesting a photo opportunity with journalists, remembering how women liked to take selfies with him.
"I am not trying to be a show off but in every conference, women like to take their pictures with me," he said.
Even foreign journalists admitted they found Duterte amusing during the press conference.
The other media that stayed behind at the International Media Center were also laughing as they watched Duterte shoot the breeze with journalists live.
A Chinese journalist said she was "surprised" that Duterte was so "vibrant" and "friendly" with journalists.
His easy banter, she said, was in stark contrast to the "stiff" politicians she covers in Beijing. – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.