The man has no sense of history. For the reckless remark of comparing himself to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler, President Rodrigo Duterte is reaping worldwide condemnation. Israel’s foreign ministry said the Philippine president’s invoking Hitler’s action during World War II was unfortunate. US Defense Secretary Aston Carter described Duterte’s mindlessness meandering as “troubling.” It was a mild reaction but was Carter’s comment suggesting the Philippine president is mentally troubled?
The global Human Rights Watch and Jewish groups in the United States said Duterte’s comparison of himself to Hitler who slaughtered an estimated six million Jews in his pogrom to exterminate them and expunge his self-perceived purity of the Aryan race, is offensive to Jews worldwide.
“There are three million drug addicts in the Philippines. I’d be happy to slaughter all of them,” said Duterte in justifying his relentless war on illegal drugs. In his speech in Davao City before a gathering of policewomen and community leaders, Duterte said the people can oust him if he abuses his power. He will not cling to power, he added.
I have been to the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland where Jewish prisoners were gassed to death, their corpses fed to cremation furnaces. The wheelbarrows that carried the bodies from the gas chambers to the furnaces are still there. I can tell you the experience that visitors feel in this hellish place is chilling, even decades after the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. The stench of death is still in the place—emanating from and permeating the floor and the walls. The only thing missing if one has a vivid imagination, are the victims’ screams—now silenced, but not muted by history.
The curators of the war museum of Holocaust victims keep Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, as much as possible, the same except for wiping off the blood in the premises. They want Auschwitz to remain in its original state as a testament to man’s inhumanity to man. Heaps of prisoners’ clothes, shoes, luggage and even gold teeth extracted from the victims are on display in various rooms of the place. Why were the victims’ gold teeth extracted from them? Our Jewish guide told us the gold was melted to be sold to help fund Germany’s war.
Auschwitz is about three and a half hours drive from the Polish capital of Warsaw. I have been to Auschwitz twice not because of a macabre fascination for the grim, dark side of history. As Philippine ambassador to Poland, I had to accompany a visiting delegation of Philippine parliamentarians, including then-Senate President Franklin Drilon and Richard Gordon. The second time was with the late Philippine Star columnist Max Soliven, who like myself, was an avid student of history. Nazi Germany’s forces invaded and occupied Poland, Hungary and France during World War II. Jews were rounded up and loaded on trains to concentration camps. Packed like cattle inside the cargo compartments, those who died on the way to the camps were luckier in that they didn’t have to suffer the torture at the hands of their Nazi captors.
Books on this horrific history of the Jewish people are available in bookstores worldwide, and even locally. But maybe not in Davao.
No amount of clarification by Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella can undo the damage Duterte did to himself. The President’s closest circle of friends and associates, if he allows it, should form a group of advisers to teach him lessons in history, international protocol and elementary courtesy so he does not offend the sensibilities of other people particularly those who have suffered at the hands of a ruthless dictator.
Abella attempted to soften the impact of Duterte’s insensitive gaffe to compare himself to Hitler by saying the President was being portrayed by international critics as a ruthless dictator in his relentless war on illegal drugs. He added that the government’s effort was to save future generations of Filipinos from the widespread scourge of drug addiction. This sounds like Hitler‘s justification for the extermination of Jews which was to cleanse Germany and Europe of the “Jewish plague.”
So administration apologists are saying Digong is now the savior of the Filipino people? Don’t be surprised if Digong next compares himself to Jesus Christ. But then that would be incompatible with his cursing of Pope Francis for causing monstrous traffic jams during the papal visit to Manila.
To think a Digong disciple even compared Duterte to Singapore’s revered leader Lee Kuan Yew who is respected worldwide. There’s a world of difference between being respected and reviled. Some people are just on denial mode because they have been given cushy positions in the Duterte administration.