PRESIDENT Duterte came under fire yesterday for showing up at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev looking “unkempt.”
Photos and video of the meeting in Moscow on Wednesday night, posted on Twitter by an editor of Czechoslovakia’s CRo Plus radio, showed Duterte in an ill-fitting suit with his necktie hanging loose, shaking hands with Medvedev.
Editor Pavel Vondra called out Duterte for showing up “a bit unkempt.”
Vondra, in his tweet, said, “The Russian internet is having a blast: ‘Did he drink all night?’,
‘Did he just leave the pub?’, ‘Do Filipinos know what a (state visit) protocol is?’ people ask.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the President’s “loosened tie was not intended to disrespect the Russian Prime Minister or the Russian.”
He also said the President is “very hygienic” and “his body emits a refreshing scent as observed by people who meet up close to him.”
“PRRD (Duterte) does not look unkempt. What those kibitzers refer to is the way he wore his tie. He loosened it up. He feels suffocated and very uncomfortable if the tie is tightly in place in the collar,” said Panelo who is part of Duterte’s delegation to Russia.
He said Duterte prefers to be comfortable and is not in any way thinking of unsettling other people.
Duterte, 74, has showed up in events in polo shirt or barong tagalog, with the sleeves rolled up. In some events, he paired his barong with denim pants. He has repeatedly explained he is not comfortable with the barong and suits and often complained about feeling itchy.
Other comments on Twitter said Duterte looked “like someone forced him out of bed” and that he “has no respect for the office he occupies, the people he represents, and the people he deals with. Unless you’re Chinese.”
Another said it is “a shame to be governed by someone who does not know protocol.”
Duterte, in the meeting with Medvedev at the Prime Minister’s Office, expressed his optimism for a continued closer relation with Russia.
“In 2017, during my first visit to Russia, we successfully set the foundation for a closer bilateral cooperation. Since then, we have been — we have seen the remarkable progress in our engagement including such strategic areas as defense and security,” the President said citing the port call of BRP Tarlac in Vladivostok in 2018, the first Philippine Navy ship to sail to Russia.
Medvedev acknowledged the improved trade between the two countries and reaffirmed Russia’s interests in continuing various projects such as in transportation, energy and agriculture, and humanitarian endeavors in the Philippines.
Late Thursday, Duterte was set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and witness the signing of agreements aimed at expanding cooperation in a wide range of areas.
The President will also addressing the plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club, or Valdai Forum, which has the theme “The World Order Seen From the East” this year.
On his return to Moscow on Friday, the President would attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers at the Aleksandrovaky Sad, tour the Kremlin Palace, and attend a Philippine Cultural Gala Performance.
Duterte will also meet Russian business leaders and would be conferred an honorary doctorate degree by the Moscow State Institute of International Relations University.
He is expected to be back in Davao by October 6.
The President first visited Russia in 2017 but it was cut short because of a siege in Marawi City led by the Maute group.
Panelo defended the inclusion of several entertainment personalities in the official visit to Russia, saying some of them are there to help “entertain” Filipinos during the President’s meeting with the Filipino community.
“With regard to the showbiz people who are here, as far as I know, when they entertain the Filipino community while waiting for the arrival of the President, they are not paid. They have been doing that during the presidential campaign. They just happen to be genuine and rabid fans of the PRRD,” he said
Among the entertainment personalities present in the delegation are actors Cesar Montano and Philip Salvador.
Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said the Philippines and Russia are in the early stages of discussions for a nuclear energy arrangement amid the growing demand for power in the country.
Sorreta, in a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday, Sorreta said some challenges need to be addressed before any arrangement could be made, ike coming up with a clear nuclear policy and a legal framework that would allow the use of nuclear energy, and the setting up of a research reactor calibration facility, among others.
He said there should also be a national consensus on whether to resort to the use of nuclear energy for power generation.
Sorreta said he personally sees the merits of using nuclear energy which is cleaner than fossil fuel and could help generate more affordable electricity.
“So, Russia is at the cutting edge on that. Even though it’s an oil power… they’re (a) leader in nuclear and of course fossil,” he said.
Sorreta believes that, if not on nuclear energy generation and use, Russia can still help in securing the Philippines’ energy requirements in the coming years.
He said Russia is interested in investing in the Philippine energy sector through the setting up of plants for natural gas, particularly in liquefied natural gas.
Aside from energy, the Philippines is looking at more Russian investments in agricultural production and in information technology.
On Wednesday night, President Duterte received in Moscow, Igor Sechin, the chief executive officer of Rosneft Oil Company, Russia’s leading company in the oil sector and largest global public oil and gas corporation.
Rosneft, which is operating in more than 20 countries including China, the US, Canada, Indonesia, and Myanmar, focuses on exploration and appraisal of hydrocarbon fields, production of oil and gas, and offshore field development, among others.
In 2017, Rosneft signed an agreement with the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation for the development of a multilateral cooperation on oil trading and participation on oil refinery projects in the Philippines.