Digong explains absences at ASEAN meetings

November 17, 2018
Rodrigo R. Duterte

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte made light of his absence from a breakfast meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore, quipping he does not eat kangaroo.

Duterte was the lone ASEAN head of government who did not attend the ASEAN-Australia Informal Breakfast Summit last Wednesday.

The President did not attend five other meetings and events scheduled for the day.  Malacañang said he took “power naps” because he hardly slept the night before.

In a speech before the Filipino community in Papua New Guinea, Duterte said the  breakfast invitation was too early.

“Dumating kami from Davao 1:30 a.m. so we had to fix our things at itong mga Australyano di ko rin maintindihan, 8:30 ang invitation informal breakfast. Sabi ko sa mga sundalo, bakit ako magpunta doon, unang-una hindi ako kumakain ng breakfast. Totoo,” he said.

“Pangalawa, informal, ano ipakain nila dyan sa atin, kangaroo?” he added.

Critics have pounced on his absence from the meetings, surmising he did not want to be questioned about the human rights situation in the country amid his bloody war on drugs.

Duterte said he was not fond of grand meals like buffets.

“Ang totoo talaga ako, every time, nagbabaon ako ng karne norte, tuyo at sardinas, yan lang ang kinakain ko, hindi ako pwede ng buffet.  Punta kayo sa hotel ngayon, bigyan ko kayo ng karne norte,” he told the crowd.

He told of a trip to India, where they were not allowed to bring in the canned beef. Hindus do not eat cow meat, as cows are considered sacred.

“Punta kami ng India, pagbaba namin dun, sabi nila ibalik, ibalik (corned beef).  Sa India hindi pwede kang kumain ng beef. . . wag kayo magdala ng delata, ang beef hindi kinakain, hinahayaan lang magpasyal sa downtown,” he said.

“Ako Bisaya, mahilig talaga kami sa maalat because of my ancestral genetics, sa Bisaya walang puno dun, walang tanim, dinaanan ng bagyo,” he added.  

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s spokesperson, said it was not uncommon for a world leader to miss some meetings in foreign engagements.

He cited United States President Donald Trump, who was represented in this year’s ASEAN meetings by Vice President Mike Pence, and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who “had to be represented in two of the meetings he was presiding because he was indisposed.”