PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday apologized to the Jewish community for his remarks comparing his bloody war on illegal drugs to Adolf Hitler’s killing of six-million Jews during the Holocaust.
Duterte, who delivered a speech at the opening of the 37th Masskara festival in Negros accidental, said he did not intend to derogate the memory of slain Jews.
“There was never an intention on my part to derogate the memory of six-million Jews murdered by the Germans,” Duterte said.
“I apologize profoundly and deeply to the Jewish community,” Duterte also said.
Duterte supporters online bashed two Filipino correspondents working for foreign wire services because they led their stories with Duterte’s Hitler remarks.
But in Davao Friday, Duterte did liken his war on drugs to Hitler’s efforts to exterminate the Jews, and said he was “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts.
Duterte also lambasted Western critics of his unprecedented law-and-order crackdown, which left more than 3,000 people dead in three months and raised concerns about a breakdown in the rule of law in one of Asia’s most chaotic democracies.
“Hitler massacred three-mil lion Jews. Now there are three-million drug addicts [in the Philippines]. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte told reporters in his home city of Davao shortly after returning from Vietnam.
“At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have,” he said, then paused. “But you know, my victims, I would like to be [sic] all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.”
Duterte, 71, won elections in May with a large plurality of votes after a campaign dominated by his pledge to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.
The lawyer and former city prosecutor promised immunity for security forces if they were charged with murder, and on his first day in office urged residents of a Manila slum to kill drug addicts within their own community.
His police chief also urged addicts to burn down the homes of drug traffickers and kill them.
Since Duterte came to power on June 30, the Philippine National Police said its operatives killed 1,323 drug suspects from July 1 to 6 a.m. of Oct. 2, 2016.
The PNP also reported in the latest update that its operatives had arrested 22,217 drug suspects and a total of 731,839 drug pushers and users have also surrendered under Oplan Tokhang.
A piece of cardboard, with “drug peddler” or “drug addict” written on it, is frequently placed on corpses that are left on streets. This has led to the war on crime becoming known as “cardboard justice.”
Duterte has faced a barrage of criticism from Western governments and rights groups, but he has reacted defiantly and often with abusive language while insisting he is not doing anything illegal.
Duterte has branded US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore,” called UN chief Ban Ki-moon a “fool” and said “f–k you” to the European Union while raising his middle finger.
In his latest tirade on Friday, Duterte said he was under threat of being brought before an international court for genocide, but again insisted he was breaking no laws in the Philippines.
“You are portrayed or pictured to be some, a cousin of Hitler. And you do not even bother to find out, to investigate. Imagine that, I will be facing… even the international court for genocide. That’s foolish,” he said.
Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany, led a campaign to wipe out Jews in Europe which led to about six-million deaths by the end of World War II.
Duterte on Friday also criticized the European Union and the United States for alleged inaction on the migrant crisis emanating from the Middle East.
“You US, EU. You can call me anything. But I was never into or I am never into hypocrisy like you,” he said.
“There are migrants escaping from the Middle East. You allow them to rot and then you’re worried about the deaths of about 1,000, 2,000, 3,000?”
Duterte has also signaled he intends to downgrade military ties with longtime ally the United States, while forging closer relations with China and Russia.
Duterte said this week he intended to end joint military exercises with the United States.
The nations conduct war games regularly in the Philippines and coastal waters, which previous governments have intended as a form of deterrence against China’s ambitions to control most of the South China Sea.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter responded to Duterte’s comments by insisting on Thursday America’s alliance with the Philippines remained “ironclad.”
But Duterte on Friday insisted the war games next week involving more than 1,000 troops would be the last of his six-year term, as he hit out again at the United States.
“Do not pretend to be the moral conscience of the world,” he said.
He said it was disrespectful for the US and the EU to portray him as “a cousin of Hitler” without investigating the real story behind the extrajudicial killings in the country.
The criticism, he said, shamed not only him but all Filipinos.
He said that he is used to be ridiculed as a politician, but he cannot take it if the entire Filipinos is being put to shame.
Amid mounting international criticism, the Palace on Sunday said there was no need for Duterte to apologize for his Holocaust remarks.
“Why should he be apologizing? The President is just reacting against the comparison to Hitler and Stalin,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told the Manila Standard in a chance interview.
“The remarks being ascribed to the President are wrong. When he made the remarks against Hitler, he indeed made remarks against some UN rapporteurs ascribing that he is like Hitler killing people,” Panelo added.
Shortly after arriving for a two-day state visit at Hanoi, the President once again railed against Western critics of his unprecedented law-and-order crackdown, declaring that he was “happy to slaughter” three-millions drug addicts.
Panelo explained that the President’s rhetoric was directed towards his critics, who, during the height of the campaign against extrajudicial killings, told him that he should be brought to the International Court of Justice because of “genocide.”
Echoing the words of the President, Panelo said: “These people don’t know what genocide is. They wanted to try me for the crime of genocide, but genocide is committing the crime against humanity, killing children. I am not that.”
“They’re making comparison with Hitler and Stalin, in reference of me. I do not kill innocent people, I do not kill a race, I go against the criminals,” he added.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella earlier said the Philippines was cognizant of the deep significance of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, and the Philippine government did not wish to diminish the profound loss of 6 million Jews.
In many of his speeches, Duterte repeatedly stressed that he is not behind the many vigilante killings in the country since he took over the Presidency last June.
Members of the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, Israel, Germany, the United States and many human rights organizations condemned the President’s statements, calling them “insensitive,” “inappropriate,” and “disturbing.”
Panelo played down the international criticism against Duterte, saying that his critics weren’t getting the context of the President’s statements.
Duterte over the weekend scored the media for allegedly spinning and sensationalizing his statements and putting emphasis on alleged extrajudicial killings in the country, which he repeatedly denied.
Meanwhile, Panelo said that any attempt to oust the President will not succeed after Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco accused the Liberal Party and some elite businessmen of plotting to topple down this administration.
“Any attempt at ousting the President will fail because he has the support of an overwhelming mandate coming from the people. If the President has the support of people, you cannot remove him,” he added.