MANILA – Toward the end of perhaps one of his busiest days as head of state, President Rodrigo Duterte plodded up the steps to the stage, wiped his nose with the back of his hand, scratched his nape, stood on the rostrum and declared: no more summits.
The Philippine president faced the press Saturday night in a briefing to conclude the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, appearing exhausted over his debut hosting.
“Anak ka ng… Kung ganito lang ang summit, kanselado na ‘yung sa November (If summits are like this, then let’s just cancel the one in November),” Duterte said in jest, the top of his barong unbuttoned, his sleeves rolled up.
The Philippines is scheduled to again serve as the venue for the ASEAN Summit in November. And 72-year-old Duterte, the oldest to ever be elected Philippine president, is again due to play host.
“’Yung sa Foreign Affairs, Sir, ‘wag ka nang mag-summit summit dito (To the Foreign Affairs [Secretary], do not hold any more summits here),” joked Duterte, referring to acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.
Throughout the day, Duterte had shown restraint of the playful ways he usually exhibits in public, as if keenly aware that he was in the company of other ASEAN leaders.
He stuck to prepared speeches, his words measured, in stark contrast to lengthy impromptu remarks in his public outings.
But after a full day restricted by protocol, Duterte let loose in meeting the press Saturday night, even joking that the media should have been invited to the gala dinner with ASEAN leaders and other dignitaries.
“Sabi nang ‘wag kayong mag-summit-summit kung wala kayong pera (I told you not to host summits if you don’t have a budget),” Duterte said, drawing chuckles from those in the room.
At one point, when an officer approached to remind him it was time for the gala dinner, Duterte said: “They (ASEAN leaders) can start dinner.”
He eventually obliged and excused himself from the media: “I do not want to…[but] somebody would need to eat now.”
But before leaving the stage, Duterte called on the women, saying the ladies would usually ask for photos with him in his press engagements.
“I am not trying to be a show-off, but I’ve noticed that after every conference, a lot of mostly women would want to have a picture with me. Women, come up and we’ll have the pictures,” said the President.
He took a few minutes taking selfies and group photos before heading to his dinner hosting.