Manila: Ties With U.S. Remain Strong After Philippine President Calls U.S. Ambassador ‘Son of a Whore’

Rodrigo Duterte continues to prove there there are no bounds to his role as president of the Philippines.

In this photo taken on March 2, 2016, shows Davao City Mayor and Presidential Candidate Rodrigo Duterte raising a clenched fist during his campaign sortie in Lingayen, Pangasinan, north of Manila.
Rodrigo Duterte curses the pope's mother and jokes about his own infidelities, but many voters in the Philippines want to elect him president so he can begin an unprecedented war on crime. / AFP / NOEL CELIS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY: Philippines-vote-rights-crime-Duterte, FOCUS by Karl Malakunas        (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on March 2, 2016, shows Davao City Mayor and Presidential Candidate Rodrigo Duterte raising a clenched fist during his campaign sortie in Lingayen, Pangasinan, north of Manila. Rodrigo Duterte curses the pope's mother and jokes about his own infidelities, but many voters in the Philippines want to elect him president so he can begin an unprecedented war on crime. / AFP / NOEL CELIS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY: Philippines-vote-rights-crime-Duterte, FOCUS by Karl Malakunas (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on March 2, 2016, shows Davao City Mayor and Presidential Candidate Rodrigo Duterte raising a clenched fist during his campaign sortie in Lingayen, Pangasinan, north of Manila. Rodrigo Duterte curses the pope's mother and jokes about his own infidelities, but many voters in the Philippines want to elect him president so he can begin an unprecedented war on crime. / AFP / NOEL CELIS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY: Philippines-vote-rights-crime-Duterte, FOCUS by Karl Malakunas (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Those who believe Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has touched the rhetorical bottom in politics have clearly not been following Rodrigo Duterte, the recently elected president of the Philippines.

He already told journalists that they aren’t safe from execution, and has launched a massive shoot-to-kill campaign against anyone police suspect of selling or using drugs.

And then he called Philip Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, “gay” and “the son of a whore.”

Those who believe Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has touched the rhetorical bottom in politics have clearly not been following Rodrigo Duterte, the recently elected president of the Philippines.

He already told journalists that they aren’t safe from execution, and has launched a massive shoot-to-kill campaign against anyone police suspect of selling or using drugs.

And then he called Philip Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, “gay” and “the son of a whore.”

“As you know, I’m fighting with [U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s] ambassador,” Duterte said on Philippine television on Friday, in the local Tagalog language. “His gay ambassador, the son of a whore. He pissed me off.”

The controversial president’s relationship with Goldberg apparently hit a roadbump when the U.S. envoy condemned Duterte’s suggestion on the campaign trail that he, too, would have liked to rape Jacqueline Hamil, an Australian missionary who was brutally raped and killed in his hometown of Davao in 1989.

“I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing,” Duterte said in April. “But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”

Before he was elected elected president this spring, the 71-year-old spent decades as mayor of Davao, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where he earned a reputation for being tough on drug crime. And apparently he saw Goldberg’s criticism of his remarks about Hamil’s death to be an overstep of diplomatic boundaries.

“He meddled during the elections, giving statements here and there,” Duterte during the same television appearance on Friday. “He was not supposed to do that.”

Washington was clearly not happy about Duterte’s TV appearance, and State Department spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau said that the Philippines’s charge d’affaires, Patrick Chuasoto, was summoned to discuss the president’s comments on Monday. “We had that conversation,” Trudeau said. “I think what we were seeking is perhaps a better understanding of why that statement was made.”

And according to Manila, there are no longer hard feelings in Washington over last week’s comments.

Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose told Agence-France Presse on Wednesday that his government’s envoy to Washington was “invited to the State Department to discuss the entire breadth of Philippines-U.S. relations.”

“Philippine-U.S. relations remain strong,” Jose said.

This isn’t the first time Duterte has gotten away with using the “son of a whore,” at a foreigner. Last time, it was directed at the pope, after his visit to the majority Catholic island nation caused traffic jams.

Photo credit: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.