VERA FILES FACT CHECK: No, the world didn’t ‘look up’ to Duterte for cursing Obama

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo was wrong in saying that the international community regarded President Rodrigo Duterte as an “emerging world leader” for cursing then-U.S. President Barack Obama.

STATEMENT

Panelo made the claim in a June 25 Palace press briefing in response to a question about the “colorful” language that Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin used against Vice President Leni Robredo.

Eh yung Presidente naman natin, ‘di ba, ganun din ang style? Pero kita mo naman ang epekto. Look at the effect. When he cursed Mr. Obama, oh. Eh ‘di ba, bigla siyang tiningala ng buong mundo as an emerging world leader. He stood up. Alam mo kung minsan, marami ring nagagawa ‘yang ganyan.”

(Isn’t our President’s style like that, too? But look at the effect. Look at the effect. When he cursed Mr. Obama, the whole world looked up to him as an emerging world leader, right? He stood up. You know sometimes, doing that can achieve a lot.)

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, June 25, 2019, watch from 22:50-23:16)

In a June 24 tweet, Locsin called Robredo “boba” (stupid) after she had questioned the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for ordering the cancellation of diplomatic passports.

Locsin’s order came after former DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario, a fierce critic of China, was barred from entering Hong Kong on June 21.

Locsin, who was slammed for his tweet, has repeatedly apologized to Robredo for his remark.


FACT

Contrary to Panelo’s statement, Duterte did not earn praise for calling Obama “son of a whore” in a September 2016 speech prior to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos, which led to the cancellation of a bilateral meeting with the former American president.

Several news outlets worldwide reported on his “insulting” and “controversial” statements even a year after he cursed Obama, who had expressed concern over the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

In 2016, the Guardian chronicled some of the “string of outbursts” made by the “defiant Philippine leader”:

“Obama joins a long list of people whose mothers’ purity have been called into question by Duterte, including Pope Francis, Philippine bishops and a murdered journalist,” referring to the late Davao-based reporter and Duterte critic Jun Pala.

Source: The Guardian, Barack Obama cancels meeting after Philippines president calls him 'son of a whore,' Sept. 5, 2016

Independent news organization Al Jazeera also wrote in 2016:

“Duterte has previously angrily rejected criticism from the Catholic Church, human rights groups, politicians and the United Nations.”

It added:

“The maverick president has quickly earned a reputation for making offensive comments about his critics.”

Source: Al Jazeera, Barack Obama cancels Rodrigo Duterte talks after insult, Sept. 6, 2016.

The same year, Australia-based The Interpreter, a policy blog published by independent think tank The Lowy Institute, pointed out Duterte’s “indiscriminate use of colourful and frequently derogatory colloquial language.”

“His (un)presidential comments led the US to postpone this meeting indefinitely, and followed an earlier incident where he used a homophobic slur in reference to US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.”

Source: The Interpreter, Rodrigo Duterte’s mayoral mentality, Sept. 7, 2016

In 2017, business and financial news network CNBC International also recorded the “most incendiary comments and claims” Duterte made that year, including admitting to stabbing someone to death, threatening to hang European Union officials, and wanting to “eat” terrorists if one were captured alive.

“From admitting to killing people to joking about rape, the 72 year-old’s explosive comments have made headlines around the world and earned him comparisons to President Donald Trump. In response, his administration insists that the leader’s statements should be taken with a pinch of salt, with the president himself even admitting that “only two out of my five statements are true.” Still, critics frequently attack Duterte for what they deem unpresidential behavior.”

Source: CNBC, “‘I will eat his liver’: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s most controversial comments of 2017,” Dec. 24, 2017

Also in 2017, American magazine Newsweek compiled Duterte’s “most insulting” quotes about America, saying:

“The former mayor of Davao City became known for his outrageous statements in the run up to being elected yesterday, and has criticized global figures from the pope to former President Barack Obama. He has also gained infamy for instigating an aggressive war on drugs in which at least 2,000 people have died, with police investigating the deaths of 7,000 more people.”

Source: Newsweek, U.S. and the Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte's Most Insulting Quotes About America, June 30, 2017

Duterte apologized for his remark against Obama two years later. Yet, recalling the same incident in May, he misquoted Obama in a speech in Tokyo, Japan. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte grossly overestimates daily drug deaths in the US, wrongly attributes quote to Obama)

Duterte has likewise lashed out against the press for reporting on controversies and false statements made under his rule. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte seesaws with the media)


Sources

Agence France Presse, Philippines' Duterte calls Obama 'son of a whore,' Sept. 5, 2016.

Al Jazeera, Barack Obama cancels Rodrigo Duterte talks after insult, Sept. 6, 2016.

CNBC, ‘I will eat his liver’: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s most controversial comments of 2017, Dec. 24, 2017.

Inquirer.net. Duterte: Media never wanted me president, Mar. 20, 2019.

Newsweek, U.S. and the Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte's Most Insulting Quotes About America, June 30, 2017.

Philstar.com. Duterte says he has lost faith in media, June 10, 2019.

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing NEB, Malacañang June 25, 2019.

Rappler, Duterte blasts 'Western-funded' media, hits 'professional twisters,' May 13, 2019.

RTVM, Meeting with the Filipino Community (Speech) 09/02/2018.

The Guardian, Barack Obama cancels meeting after Philippines president calls him 'son of a whore,' Sept. 5, 2016.

The Interpreter, Rodrigo Duterte’s mayoral mentality, Sept. 7, 2016.


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Hindi 'tiningala' ng mundo si Duterte sa pagmumura niya kay Obama

Mali si Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo sa pagsabi na kinilala ng international community si…

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte grossly overestimates daily drug deaths in the US, wrongly attributes quote to Obama

Obama never said “we (the U.S.) will prosecute you (Duterte) for extrajudicial killings.”

​VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB page revives old, FAKE post about Russian paper saying Obama is ‘afraid’ of Duterte

This story is misleading. Don't believe it.

About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

Contact Us

Email us at [email protected]

MEMBER