Poker-faced Russian President Vladimir Putin wasn’t given to smiling or laughing, according to some news reporters, but he was said to be different with President Rodrigo Duterte. In fact, Duterte was enthralled about it, especially how the Russian president repeatedly invited him to visit his country.
“His (Putin) smile was wide. According to news reports, he does not laugh. But he was smiling all along. He said ‘do not forget to visit Russia. I reserved something for you there.’ ‘True?’ ‘Gun.’ He loves guns,” Duterte shared with reporters on Monday, adding that President Putin is fond of hunting. His meeting with Putin came after his bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of China.
Duterte’s excitement to meet Putin had been in the news for a while. On one occasion, Duterte had even noted how he and Putin had similar traits.
“Gusto ko si Putin (I like Putin),” Duterte was quoted by ABS-CBN News in one article in August during his meeting with Filipino workers returning from the Middle East at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.
“Pareho kami…baka sa girls (We’re very similar…probably when it comes to girls),” Duterte had teasingly told reporters in an interview, also in August.
That dream of personally meeting Putin finally came true in the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru. And what was it like?
“It seemed like we’ve known each other for so long and even the way we pat each other’s hand in a handshake. And you know, I didn’t realize then… before we were seated.”
Duterte was referring to how he and Putin were suddenly seated beside each other during one APEC session.
“I was talking with the—I think, the Premier of Vietnam. They were thanking me for the sailors that we sent home. We talked and when I finally sat down, I found out that President Putin was on my left side, so we shook hands,” Duterte narrated.
“And then after that, I shook his hands again and I finally said I’ll go ahead. Then he gestured to me ‘don’t forget to visit Russia,’” Duterte added.
“He has extended the gracious invitation maybe about four times already. And maybe I will go… I shall go someday.”
In his bilateral meet with the Russian president, Duterte criticized western countries, the US among them, for supposedly bullying weaker nations. He also mentioned about how the US had pressured its allies into going to wars with her. In addition, Duterte simply explained to Putin the reasons and the context behind his outbursts against the West.
How did Putin react to this? Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., national security adviser, said that, “Generally, what President Putin said is that ‘we share your sentiments…our assessments coincide in many respects.’”
Esperon was around during the meeting with Putin.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez noted how Putin praised Duterte’s firmness. “Something was said about his being firm, perhaps in a way, he would no longer be bullied. Something like that,” Lopez said.