Duterte mourns passing of 'loyal friend' Japanese PM Abe

Former President Rodrigo Duterte is saddened by the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, a leader whom he described as instrumental in the Philippines' robust ties with Japan.

File photo of former President Rodrigo Duterte greeting former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo when the latter visited the Philippines for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila in November 2017. Abe passed away on July 8, 2022, after being shot while delivering a speech in Nara, Japan. He was 67. (Malacañang photo)

Former Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said this after Japanese media reported Abe's passing hours after he was gravely shot while delivering a speech in Nara, Japan, on Friday, July 8. He was 67.

In a statement, Andanar said Duterte and his partner Honeylet Avanceña were mourning the passing of the longest-serving Japanese prime minister.

"Former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and wife Honeylet Avanceña are deeply saddened with the untimely passing of Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe," he said.

"Former President Duterte expresses his deep sympathy to the wife and family of the former Prime Minister," he added.

According to Andanad, former President Duterte had described Abe as a loyal friend and strong ally of the Philippines.

"Abe was a good and loyal friend, a staunch supporter of my administration, and a strong ally of the nation," Duterte said, as quoted by the former Palace official.

"As the world mourns the loss of this great man, we remember him for his compassionate service and remarkable leadership. Indeed, one of the most influential world leaders of our time," the former president added.

Abe served as Japan's Prime Minister for one year from 2006 and returned to the post in 2012 until he resigned in 2020 due to health reasons.

Duterte's closeness with Abe was no secret. The two could be seen sharing light moments whenever they met. Duterte even invited Abe to his home in Davao City in January 2017.

In a phone call before Abe stepped down from his position, Duterte thanked him for his role in strengthening the robust relationship between Japan and the Philippines.

He likewise expressed regret over Abe's resignation, saying he will not forget his "brother's" kindness and strength of character.

"He is - to me and the Filipino people - a true friend closer than a brother. To Prime Minister Abe, I pray for your speedy and full recovery!" he said.

It was during Duterte's administration when the Philippines and Japan entered the "Age of Strategic Partnership." The former Philippine President described this relationship as "friends closer than brothers."

Duterte has visited Japan four times since he became president in 2016. He went to Tokyo twice in 2019, including one for the enthronement of Emperor Akihito.