MANILA – Did Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte issue scathing statements against US President Barack Obama because he knew the latter is on his way out anyway?
Duterte's Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III thinks so.
''Naisip ko, siguro naalala niya na si President Obama is already a lame duck president. Ilang buwan na lang wala na siya,'' Bello said.
(Maybe he remembered that President Obama is already a lame duck president. He's out in a few months. )
''I think he is more concerned on the interest of our Filipino workers than establishing a strong foreign relation with an outgoing President," he added.
The US elections will be held on November 8. Obama is set to leave the presidency in January 2017 after serving two terms. His possible successors are fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton and the equally controversial Donald Trump of the Republican Party.
Bello believes Duterte's recent outburst against Obama will not have any negative implications on the employment of Filipino workers in the United States, as well as with American investments in the Philippines.
Bello said he believes that President Duterte is much more interested in looking after the welfare of Filipino migrant workers rather than fostering strong diplomatic relations.
Duterte was angered after learning that Obama was planning to discuss with him the human rights situation in the Philippines amid the tough-talking leader's bloody crackdown on illegal drugs.
READ: Duterte hits US anew before leaving for ASEAN Summit
He scoffed at this idea and uttered curses, saying such a move would be an interference on Philippine sovereignty.
Duterte's verbal insults prompted the White House to cancel what could have been the first meeting between Duterte and Obama during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos.
Duterte's spokesmen have since said that the president regrets the statements which ''came across as a personal attack on the US President.'' They said the two sides have agreed to move the meeting a later date.