Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte 20191002
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Image Credit: AP

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman defended him against critics who described him as looking unkempt when he met with Russia's prime minister, saying he is "very hygienic" and that "his body emits a refreshing scent".

Salvador Panelo, who is travelling with Duterte in Russia, challenged "kibitzers" to try to be close 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 is in Russia for a working visit.

Pavel Vondra, an editor at CRo Plus radio, on Thursday posted on Twitter a photo of Duterte shaking hands with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as he called out the Philippine leader for showing up "a bit unkempt".

Photos and video of the meeting showed Duterte in a ill-fitting suit with his necktie hanging loose.

Vondra, in his tweet, said "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 ask." Coming to Duterte's defence, Panelo said the president merely loosened his tie because "he feels suffocated and very uncomfortable".

"PRRD dresses up for comfort, he is not particular on unsettling other people", Panelo said.

Duterte, 74, once said he had never owned a suit and does not wear socks.

The firebrand leader typically wears a polo shirt, jeans and slip-on loafers, and on formal occasions has dressed in a barong, a traditional long-sleeved Filipino shirt, and suits.

Filipinos are drawn to Duterte's no-nonsense, man-of-the-people style, which sits oddly with the pomp and protocol he encounters in the international political arena.