The move followed a warning from Duterte to the US president to keep off the subject of extrajudicial killings in his country’s brutal drug war when they were due to meet on Tuesday at a regional summit in Laos. Duterte told a press conference that Obama “must be respectful”.
The firebrand president was answering a reporter’s question about how he intended to explain the extrajudicial killings to Obama, before boarding a plane to Laos for the Association of South-east Asian Nations summit.
“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a *****, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte was quoted by as saying by Agence-France Presse. “We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me.”
When his comments reached the Obama camp, the US president initially said he was asking his staff to find out whether holding the meeting as scheduled would be useful.
“Obviously the Filipino people are some of our closest friends and allies and the Philippines is a treaty ally of ours. But I always want to make sure that if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive and we’re getting something done.”
But hours later the decision was made to cancel, a White House spokesman said. Instead, Obama will meet with South Korean president Park Geun-hye.
Duterte has faced condemnation from human rights campaigners, diplomats and the UN for inciting a war on drugs that, according to official figures published on Sunday, has led to 2,400 deaths in just two months.
Obama joins a long list of people whose mothers’ purity have been called into question by Duterte, including Pope Francis, Filipino bishops and a murdered journalist , as well as the drugs traffickers who are the main targets of his domestic law and order policies.
The defiant Filipino leader has responded to critics with a string of outbursts, including labelling the US ambassador to Manila a “gay son of a who*e” , telling the Catholic church “don’t f**k with me” , and accusing the UN of issuing “****ting” statements about his anti-drugs policies.
Asked about the possible consequences of his comments, he said: “What is ... repercussions? I don’t give a **** to them.”