JAKARTA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he spoke on Thursday about American human rights violations in the Philippines because colonizers who killed many Filipinos were now raising human rights concerns with him.
US President Barack Obama was among several world leaders who listened to Mr. Duterte’s brief speech at the East Asia Summit in Vientiane, Laos, on Thursday.
Obama earlier canceled a meeting with Mr. Duterte after the Philippine leader called him a “son of a bitch” and warned him not to discuss the deaths of thousands of suspects in the Philippine campaign against illegal drugs.
Speaking to a group of Filipinos at Shangri-La Jakarta hotel during a visit to Indonesia on Friday, Mr. Duterte said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s raising the human rights issue in passing in a speech at the East Asia Summit made him ditch his prepared speech and make remarks about American human rights violations in Mindanao during colonial times.
“It’s an illegitimate statement. But me, because of the pressure to stop it, I said since human rights was mentioned, I produced a few pages with pictures in the pacification campaign by the Americans at the turn of the century,” he said.
Mr. Duterte said there were about 600,000 Muslims in Mindanao when the Americans occupied the island. He said the colonizers killed 6,000 Muslims.
‘Statement of fact’
“They were just buried in a common pit. The soldiers stomped on the breasts of naked women. This is human rights? What do you intend to do?” Mr. Duterte said.
“Do not tell me that is water under the bridge. A human rights violation, whether committed by Moses or Abraham, is still a violation of human rights,” he said.
Mr. Duterte said he made the “statement of fact” when only the Southeast Asian leaders and their allies were left in the room.
He said among those in the room were National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo and two generals.
“They were squirming at first. Nobody knew I wasn’t reading my speech … I asked when was this philosophy about the human dignity and the human rights evolved? Now or during this time? They were quiet,” he said.
He said he was ready at that point to confront anybody who would raise human rights concerns with him, including Obama.
“I was ready, I was waiting for Obama to respond. This will be lawyer to lawyer, because we are both lawyers,” he said.
Obama did not respond, he added.
An Agence France-Presse (AFP) report about Mr. Duterte’s speech said that officials at the East Asia Summit were “quiet and shocked” when the Philippine leader showed a picture of the killings by American soldiers in Mindanao from 1898 to 1946.
According to an Associated Press report, two Philippine Cabinet officials said Mr. Duterte did not criticize any country or leader by name in his speech.
Other diplomats who heard the speech, however, felt he was referring to the United States, which colonized the Philippines after defeating its former ruler, Spain.
Yasay disagreed with AFP’s report, saying Mr. Duterte’s statements “were received well by many.”
“I will affirm that Obama was there, but he did not react. He just sat there and listened to the President attentively,” he said.
Yasay said Mr. Duterte left the summit ahead of the other leaders because he had a bilateral meeting with Russia, but still had the opportunity to “meet with Obama, chat with him and the shaking of hands [was] warm.”
There were reports, however, that Obama did not shake hands with Mr. Duterte.
ABS-CBN News, quoting a source, said Obama went the rounds at the summit, shaking hands with each leader except Mr. Duterte.
Mr. Duterte said he was fed up with and wanted to end all talk about human rights.
He said the US Department of State was “like a fool” who joined human rights groups in criticizing his war on drugs.
“If we are in violation [of human rights], they are not? What about the people killed by their police while lying on the ground?” he said, referring to police killings involving black people in the United States.
Mr. Duterte said that even if the human rights groups were right, he would still thumb his nose at them.
“Even if it is true that I killed them all, son of a bitch, I will not answer to you. I don’t care. Who are you? Do you think I’m puny? What about the rest?” he said. With a report from AP