MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE) Rock band U2's Bono, one of the world's biggest rock stars who have lent his popularity to causes such as human rights, gender equality, and health care, has "no plans" to meet President Rodrigo Duterte.
"I’ve no plans," Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson, said Tuesday in response to a question on whether he plans to meet the president.
The question he was responding to referenced the reported snub in 1966 by the Beatles of then First Lady Imelda Marcos, wife of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who had reportedly wanted to meet the British band when they visited Manila.
Bono's response, made before a roomful of journalists, members of the diplomatic community, and some government officials elicited some laughter at the headquarters of the Philippine Red Cross, with whom the automated logistics company Zipline is partnering to deliver blood via drone in isolated places where health relief could be a challenge. Bono is a board member of Zipline.
He said he would like to focus on the positivity of the Zipline-Red Cross initiative, before adding: "President Duterte is very popular, he doesn't need me on his side."
A known long-time member of the international group Amnesty International, Bono said there should be "no compromise when it comes to human rights." He also said he takes very seriously his membership in AI.
Malacañang has repeatedly slammed Amnesty International for "politicizing" Duterte's bloody drug war.
"My impression of the Philippines is (they're a) very caring, very sophisticated people and I understand that when progress is made, some people make what they think are compromises for that progress. And I would just say you can't compromise on human rights. And that's my soft message," he said.
Bono went on to discuss his views on journalism and the free press - issues over which Duterte has been criticized.
"I have very deep convictions about journalism. I probably would've been a journalist if I wasn't a singer. And safety of journalists is very important. And I think that democracy requires a free press. And I find some journalists to be a total pain in the ass, but I'm really glad you're there,” Bono said.
Bono is in the country for the first time for the Philippine leg of the Asian tour of U2's 1987 album Joshua Tree that had taken the band to New Zealand, Australia, Japan and - also on their maiden visits - to Singapore, and South Korea. The last stop in the tour that started November is India.
He is frontlining for the band consisting of Adam Clayton on bass guitar, Larry Mullen Jr. on drums, and The Edge on lead guitar and keyboards.