Duterte-Obama rift a 'comedy of errors,' says Shahani

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2016 08:00 PM

A former senator and foreign relations committee chairman on Thursday said the United States should have been more sensitive to the Philippines and that President Rodrigo Duterte should have also been more careful in his choice of words.

"Well it’s like a comedy of errors, and I think, the US should have been more careful about making this announcement on extra-judicial killings, that Obama would take it up with our president, and so naturally, our president says now, ‘who is he to tell me what to talk about?’," said former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani.

Shahani said, the United States' comment on alleged extra-judicial killings in the Philippine administration's war on drugs came across as "typical American reaction to their former colony."

"I’m sorry to have to say it, but the US does have the habit of talking down to us officially for the past years of our relationship, whether it is special or not," she said in an interview with [email protected]

She does affirm, however, that the relationship between two countries will remain rock-solid.

"We’ve been through so much already, if you know what went through the Japanese occupation, Bataan and Corregidor, and all of those guerilla movements, which showed our preference for democratic rule and liberty," she said.

"The American way of non-interference of government in the lives of individuals is something, in a way, which we owe to America," she added.

Duterte made headlines this week after he made expletive-laden remarks when asked in a press conference about Obama's plan to discuss with him the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The remarks have prompted the White House to cancel what could have been the first meeting between Duterte and Obama on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

Duterte's spokesmen have since said that the president regrets the statements and that the two sides agreed to move the meeting to a later date.

Shahani, who was also deputy head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, former Philippine Ambassador to Australia and UN Assistant Secretary-General for Social and Humanitarian Affairs, added that Duterte's remarks were "horrifying," and that she hopes the president was briefed more carefully as the country's chief diplomat.

She compares Duterte's debut on the world stage at the summit to an 18-year old's debut into society, wherein "everyone is really watching every step or misstep that he would make."

"How I wish the department had briefed our president more carefully and how I wish he had listened more carefully that these are not things that are to be dismissed like that because words matter and every little thing will be watched by media," she said.

She emphasized, though it is "common-way" for Filipinos to use the curse Duterte has said--which she pointed out was really him reacting to the questions from the media--"this is not Davao anymore; this is the world stage."