Pooped but still jovial, Duterte cracks joke about frenzied ASEAN hosting

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A jampacked schedule and the stress of hosting the ASEAN Summit couldn't pull down the spirit of President Duterte. Photograph from Presidential Photo Bureau

Running on just three hours of sleep, President Rodrigo Duterte sniffled his way through a statement to the media late on Tuesday evening, in the Q&A afterwards seeming to temporarily regret the presidency because of the stress of hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila.

With a “heavy schedule” packed with one bilateral talk after another, President Duterte was frank about the physical toll that the ASEAN chairmanship took on him, managing to quip that he thinks he’s lost a few pounds.

“But I will recover. Because tomorrow will be the last day, and I am flying out to my city by the sea …” he said, switching to a sing-song mood at the end of the sentence.

“I feel it is my comfort zone,” he continued. “I see my grandsons, I embrace my youngest daughter, and everything seems to be good. But when I land back here [in Manila], seems to be that something is wrong with this society.”

“Had I known that this is the kind of thing that you have to indulge in, maybe if I control the hands of time, I would have made a different decision [from becoming president],” he added.

The President recalled being prompted to run for the post “not because there was already money available,” but because “it was a question of law.”

“I do not want to offend Grace Poe [a rival in last year’s presidential election whose citizenship was called into question]. But Supreme Court’s interpretation of the rules on important constitutional issues, such as on the determination of natural-born citizens, where she had been disqualified by the Commission on Elections, well, they ruled that she is a Filipino and I said well, I’m sorry Mr. Supreme Court. I do not agree with you so I’m running.”

The President closed the press conference by saying he had one more bilateral meeting to attend – New Zealand, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“It’s 10:30. Hopefully by two o’clock [it will end]. But if this continues, I might as well decide to jump into the Pasig River and rest in peace for all time,” he joked.