VIENTIANE - Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo believes the United States may have taken President's Duterte's statements out of context after Duterte made scathing comments against the United States and its leader, Barack Obama.
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.
He scoffed at this idea and uttered curses, saying such a move would be an interference to Philippine sovereignty.
Duterte's verbal insults prompted the White House to cancel what could have been the first bilateral meeting between Duterte and Obama during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos.
READ: Obama cancels meeting with Duterte after insult
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.
Panelo said the president did not attack anyone in his statements, stressing that his expletives were only part of his "style," and that his statement that he would "kick [Obama]" was not directed at the US leader.
"Kayo naman, don't put meaning to that. Style lang yun e," Panelo said.
(Don't put meaning to that. It's just his style.)
"He was not even attacking anyone there. He was only emphasizing that we are a sovereign nation and being the head of state, we should be given respect. Kasi the question phrased by the reporter was paano kung ginanon ka. Ang dating sa Presidente ano babastusin ako, presidente ako ng bansa," Panelo said.
(He was not even attacking anyone there. He was only emphasizing that we are a sovereign nation and being the head of state, we should be given respect. It was just that the question was hypothetical.)
"Palagay ko [Duterte's statement was taken out of context]. Iba yung dating sa kanila… Hindi naman eh. Iniistress lang ni Presidente na nobody can dictate on us or nobody should disrespect us. We are a sovereign country."
(I believe he was taken out of context. It was not the case. The president was just stressing that nobody can dictate on us or nobody should disrespect us. We are a sovereign country.)
Presidential peace adviser Jess Dureza said the President did not express surprise about the cancellation of the bilateral meeting when they met over breakfast.
"The reaction was the statement that he issued, you can get it from there word-for-word. He did not express surprise. Maybe we met him early morning, maybe he knew about it before," Dureza said.