KUALA LUMPUR - President Rodrigo Duterte's remarks against US Ambassador Philip Goldberg were "nothing new" and should not mean that the new administration was "belittling" ties with its long-time ally, a Philippine envoy told Washington.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said "this exactly" was what the Philippine chargé d'affaires explained when summoned by the US State Department after Duterte referred to Goldberg as "bakla" (gay) in a televised speech before the military.
The President also said he did not like ("buwisit") Goldberg for meddling during the campaign.
"The statement of President Duterte is nothing new. That has already been said before. And if he says it now because he felt the hurt that happened, then that does not mean that we are somehow belittling or undermining our strong relationship with the United States," Yasay told ABS-CBN News.
Asked if the U.S. accepted the explanation, Yasay said: "It's not a question of whether or not you accept. I hope that they will accept. But I would like to assure you that even the United States, I'm sure, will not be belaboring this point."
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy described Duterte's comments as "inappropriate and unacceptable" but did not elaborate on the "details of those diplomatic discussions" with Patrick Chuasoto, chargé d'affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Washington.
The U.S. also expressed concern over reports of extrajudicial killings in connection with Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs. It urged the Philippines "to ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations."
Yasay said the Philippines remained "committed" with the United States "notwithstanding this unfortunate incident, which, I hope, people will just leave where it is."
"There is no point to belabor that issue," he said.
"It will not lead to anything more than creating further tensions between our two countries."
Duterte has refused to apologize for his remarks ridiculing Goldberg, saying the envoy started the dispute. He noted that Goldberg had criticized him during the campaign over his joke about an Australian missionary who was gang-raped in a Davao City prison in the 1980s.
Yasay said Duterte's comments on Goldberg would be "the end of it."
"But I would not want for people to say that the President will be toning down his comments (on) matters that he has to make comments if he feels that these are necessary," Yasay said.
"There's nothing that should prevent the President from doing that. But my point being that when the President says something, he says it very candidly, he says it very straightforwardly. He has no pretensions about what he says."