BEVERLY HILLS (AFP) - Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao issued staunch support for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (Sept 8) after the Asian strongman clashed with United States leader Barack Obama over the country's bloody crime crackdown.
Mr Duterte and Mr Obama have traded blows in a bruising diplomatic bust-up this week, culminating in a stand-off at an Asian summit over the crackdown in the Philippines that has left 3,000 dead.
Pacquiao, elected to the Senate this year and a political ally of Mr Duterte, did not hesitate to wade into the row on Thursday as he spoke to journalists in Beverly Hills.
Asked for his views on the diplomatic furore - which at one point saw Mr Obama cancel a meeting with Mr Duterte after the Filipino leader referred to him as a "son of a whore" - Pacquiao's position was clear.
"My President apologised for what he said," Pacquiao said. "My President sometimes says words that people around him don't like. But I always support my President."
Asked if he backed Mr Duterte's anti-crime policies - which have seen an average of 44 people die every day in the Philippines at the hands of police and shadowy death squads - Pacquiao replied: "Of course."
"We want to stop all the drugs in the Philippines. We want to stop that. We're taking seriously fighting against illegal drugs.
"It's easy to say comments about the Philippines. But to be there and fight illegal drugs is not easy," added Pacquiao, noting that he backed the restoration of capital punishment in his homeland.
Speaking at a summit in Laos, Mr Obama had urged Mr Duterte to conduct his crime crackdown "the right way" with respect for the rule of law.
The US leader's remarks came after Mr Duterte had given a fiery address to leaders of the 18-nation East Asia group, including Mr Obama, which descended into a tirade about US military killings in the Philippines when it was an American colony between 1898 and 1946.