Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo has rushed to defend the Philippine president against critics who portrayed him as looking untidy as he met Russia's Prime Minister, arguing he is "very hygienic" and that "his body emits a refreshing scent," thereby challenging so-called "kibitzers" to try and come closer to the president to find out how he smells.
"That's what ladies tell me when they kiss PRRD, that he smells good", Panelo said, referring to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who arrived in Russia for a working visit.
The comments are virtually a response to CRo Plus radio editor Pavel Vondra's wipe at Duterte. On Thursday, he Tweeted a photo of the flamboyant Philippine president shaking hands with Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev, commenting that Duterte was "a bit unkempt" the image showed the head of state, donning a suit that apparently was not made to measure, and paired with an excessively loose necktie.
Vondra went on to cite media reactions:
"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 asked." Coming to Duterte's defence, Panelo said the president merely loosened his tie because "he feels suffocated and very uncomfortable".
Panelo struck back against the observation stressing that Duterte "dresses for comfort" and not for the purpose of "particularly unsettling other people."
74-year-old Duterte, widely popular across his country as a man of principle with his characteristic, slightly rigid man-of-the-people manner, once said he had never owned a suit, and didn't even wear socks. He is no less known for his blatant sharp-tongued escapades, including shocking recent suggestions of using firearms to more effectively deal with corrupt officials that demand bribes:
"Don't kill them because you might end up getting embroiled with those given pardon after computation. Just the foot. It will only be serious physical injuries. You'll be placed on probation. You'll just report to a probation officer. At least you shot a foolish thief, and I will defend you."
the president thundered in mid-September.
On 4 October, Duterte is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to sign several cooperation agreements as well as speak in front of students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations a day later.