Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Tuesday insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte skipped the meeting of Southeast Asian state leaders with United States President Barack Obama because he was not feeling well, and not because of personal grudges.
Yasay said he has yet to hear Duterte's statement where he said that he purposely snubbed Obama on the eve of their scheduled summit in Laos last week.
READ: Duterte says he 'purposely' skipped ASEAN-US summit
"Quite frankly, I have not heard that statement, and I would like to understand in what context did the President say that also, so I cannot comment on that," he said on ANC's Headstart.
"But I will insist and tell you the truth that the reason he was not able to attend these two meetings was because he was not feeling well, and early on, I immediately went, the state officials who were there approached me," he said.
Yasay maintained, until he hears the words straight from Duterte and understand the context of the statement, he will withhold comment.
"Maybe after I hear it, and if in fact he said it, I will talk to him and I will ask him what he meant and maybe at that time I could explain, but as of now, I would not even say that he said it because I did not hear what he allegedly said," he said.
He also refused to say if the difference in his and Duterte's statement would be problematic in the long run until he has clarified with Duterte his statement.
"I will have to understand it in that context. Is it really in conflict? Is it really something that I said that is contradictory to what he said? I have to first find that out," he said.
However, after seeing a footage of the statement, Yasay emphasized that Duterte, as president, supersedes his power as foreign affairs secretary.
"This is something maybe, perhaps, I should discuss with the president what he means, but what I would like to assure people is under the law and under the Constitution, it is the president that is the sole architect of our foreign policy. I am merely his alter ego as secretary of foreign affairs," he said.
He also underscored that the statement should be understood in the context of Duterte's previous statement regarding the absence of an apology from the US regarding the human rights violations and its critique of the administration's war on drugs.
"I do not really believe that he purposely did not attend these two meetings that I mentioned [ASEAN-US and ASEAN-India Summit], particularly ASEAN plus the United States because he does not like the Americans," he said.
"That comment about ‘I do not like Americans’ should be seen in the context of what he earlier said that they did not even apologize for the atrocities and worse, they even criticized me and lectured me on human rights violations," he said.
Yasay is heading to Washington D.C. and New York City to attend the United Nations General Assembly and is set to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss Philippine-US relations.
He said, he remains confident that the two nations will continue to prosper despite Duterte's statements.
"I am very confident, and more than that, I am very confident that the relationship between the United States and the Philippines will continue and will proceed forward even much stronger," he said.