In his most direct criticism yet of his fellow head of state, United States President Barack Obama has called on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to not disregard due process and international norms in conducting his War on Drugs.
“We recognize the significant burden that the drug trade play not just in the Philippines but around the world and that fighting narco trafficking is tough. But we will always assert the need to have due process and to engage in that fight against drugs in a way that’s consistent with basic international norms,” Obama said during a press conference at the conclusion of the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China Monday night.
Obama was also noticeably noncommittal when asked by a journalist if his bilateral meeting with Duterte during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane, Laos will push through. “What I’ve instructed my team to do is to talk to their Philippine counterparts to find out if this is, in fact, a time where we can have some constructive, productive conversations,” the American president said.
Obama, whose term of office ends by January 2017, expressed apprehensions about dealing with Duterte. “I have seen some of those colorful statements in the past. And so clearly he’s a colorful guy,” he said in a .
“I always want to make sure if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive and we’re getting something done,” he explained, emphasizing that the United States and the Philippines are treaty allies.
Earlier today, Duterte warned Obama against questioning his approach on the War on Drugs, promising to curse him if and when they have a bilateral meeting. “I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. Who is he to confront me? As a matter of fact, America has one too many to answer for. Everybody has a terrible record of extrajudicial killings,” he said.