Several senators weighed in on President Rodrigo Duterte’s statements against US President Barack Obama, while reminding him that as the chief executive, he shapes foreign policy.
The reminder came after Duterte made profane comments when asked how he would react if Obama would ask him about the extrajudicial killings and human rights concerns in the Philippines during their planned bilateral talks on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summits in Vientiane, Laos.
Obama responded to Duterte’s remarks, calling him a “colorful guy” whose “colorful statements” he had seen in the past. Those remarks also prompted Washington to cancel the scheduled meeting and move it to a later date, as per Duterte’s statement, wherein he also expressed regrets over his “strong” comments against Obama.
Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon commented on how Duterte’s international debut was marred by “unnecessary rhetoric” when human rights issues were brought up.
“Talk about starting off on the wrong foot… It is unfortunate that such meeting did not push through because of unnecessary rhetoric over human rights issues,” Drilon said in a statement released before Duterte expressed regret over his earlier remarks against Obama.
“We must remember that our foreign policy is shaped in accordance with our national interest. Unfriendly rhetoric and undiplomatic statements will not bring us anywhere. We should maintain our relations with the US as a strong treaty ally that have been built over decades,” he added.
The meeting between Duterte and Obama would have given both leaders a chance “to know each other on a personal level,” Rappler quoted Drilon’s statement.
“I am hopeful that the long-standing relationship between the two nations will remain to endure and that both leaders will have other opportunities of meeting again under a more comfortable and friendly circumstances,” Drilon said.
Duterte’s remarks uncalled for
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, one of Duterte’s outspoken critics, said that Duterte’s remarks might have an effect on the US-PH diplomatic ties.
“President Duterte’s vulgar language directed against President Obama is wrong on so many levels and will definitely have detrimental effects on our diplomatic relationship and alliance with the US,” he said.
He added that Duterte’s tirade against Obama was unnecessary.
“You don’t just slap the face of the most powerful country in the world and expect to get away with it. It was uncalled for and now our country’s security sector would be weakened because of it,” he added.
No drastic change in long-standing PH-US relations
Senator Panfilo Lacson said that despite Duterte’s remarks, it would not have any “drastic” effect on the Philippine’s relationship with the US.
“Any statement spoken by a country’s leader is always construed as a policy statement. Having said that, I don’t see any drastic change in the long-standing friendly relations between the Philippines and the United States. We are one of the United States’ strongest allies in the Asia-Pacific region, and it will stay that way,” Lacson said.
“Presidents come after elections and go after their term ends, while alliances between countries remain strong, especially between the United States and the Philippines,” he added.
However, Lacson said he hoped for Duterte to finally see the impact of his role in the country’s foreign policy.
“I hope our president will soon realize that diplomacy is always part and parcel of a country’s foreign policy and being the country’s leader, he shapes that policy,” the senator said.