Was the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) mistaken or did the ASEAN gala dinner’s seat plan change at the last minute?
President Rodrigo Duterte sat between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during the ASEAN gala dinner on Wednesday, September 7, contrary to an earlier announcement by the Palace.
Before the gala dinner, the PCO announced in a press release that Duterte was arranged to sit between US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Instead, Duterte was seated far away from Obama and Ban.
Obama was seated beside Brunei’s King Hassanal Bolkiah and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Ban, on the other hand, was seated beside his wife, Yoo Soon-taek, GMA News Online reported.
Here are the photos posted by ABS-CBN’s Willard Cheng on Twitter, showing the gala dinner seating arrangement:
— ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) September 7, 2016
Obama cancelled his meeting with Duterte supposedly on September 6 after Duterte remarked that as a president of a sovereign state, he cannot be asked and lectured about human rights. He even threatened to curse Obama if he would talk about the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and would also ask the US to apologize for killing the Filipino Moros. Duterte later expressed regret over his “strong” comments.
Duterte earlier declined a bilateral meeting with Ban, citing “scheduling incompatibility.” He also threatened to take the Philippines out of the UN, following Ban’s and UN rapporteurs’ comments on extrajudicial killings in the country.
But it was reported that Obama and Duterte managed to speak with each other briefly at the National Convention Center’s holding room, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay.
Even Duterte and the UN chief were said to have met at the gala dinner, as what was shown in a handout photo.
Palace photo shows President Duterte and UN chief Ban Ki-moon shaking hands pic.twitter.com/g4O1B6VH6Q
— Willard Cheng (@willardcheng) September 7, 2016