This was the explanation Malacanang gave for the absence of President Rodrigo Duterte Monday night at the meeting between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations (UN).
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano instead presided over the summit, opposite UN Secretary General António Guterres.
The ASEAN-UN Summit was supposed to be the last event of Duterte on Monday after his series of bilateral meetings.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the conflict in schedule prompted Duterte to skip the event.
“Schedule conflict was the cause of delay. He went to a bilateral meeting with Russia,” Roque said in a text message.
It was explained that Duterte was having his bilateral meeting with Russia at about 10:46 p.m. when the ASEAN-UN meeting was set to start.
“President Duterte had several bilateral meetings (Monday) night, including with Japan, ROK, India, and Russia. The meetings were already running beyond schedule so, to avoid further delaying the ASEAN-UN Summit, it was decided that SFA (Cayetano) represent the President while he was meeting bilaterally with the other Leaders,” acting DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said.
In his bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Duterte had a chance to briefly talk with Filipino journalists covering the event.
Duterte said he was “a bit” tired when asked if he was exhausted after his series of activities for the day.
Duterte has been critical of the UN, whose special rapporteurs have repeatedly criticized the President’s war on narcotics trade in the Philippines.
On November 9, Duterte threatened to “slap” UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard if she pursues her plan to investigate the government’s war on illegal drugs.