Duterte’s fist pump pose with Australian official ‘not political,’ Palace says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 24) — The head of Australia's overseas intelligence agency is in hot water for posing with a clenched fist beside President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte’s spokesman, however, said Thursday the signature gesture, which Duterte used during the 2016 elections, was mimicked by Australian Secret Intelligence Service Nick Warner "in a light-hearted manner.”

“It wasn’t meant to be in any way political… It was just a warming of relationships,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said during a press briefing.

Abella said he was present when Warner paid a courtesy call on Duterte in Malacañang last Tuesday.

Photos of the meeting released by Malacañang showed Warner mimicking Duterte’s clenched pose.

Warner received backlash, including a tweet from Human Rights Watch (HRW) Australia Director Elaine Pearson that said it was “sickening to see head of Australia’s spy agency fist-pumping a man who has instigated the killing of thousands.”

 

President Duterte, dubbed as “The Punisher” by Time Magazine, has been criticized for his bloody war on drugs, which government data said has killed over 3,400 suspects in police operations since July.

The killings drew outrage from local and international human rights groups, who claimed thousands others were killed in the drug war.

Abella said organizations like the HRW may have their own perspective, but Duterte’s photos with Warner just showed “a warm situation.”

Meanwhile, Australian media reported that Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she was confident the fist-pump was not Warner’s idea, but he was merely responding to a request from Duterte.