President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday faced a barrage of criticism from the United Nations, Israel, Western governments and international rights groups for drawing parallels with his brutal war on drugs and Adolf Hitler’s extermination of Jews before and during World War II.
Even longtime ally the United States has hinted at impatience with Mr. Duterte over his latest inflammatory comments, with Pentagon chief Ashton Carter and the US Embassy in Manila both saying the Philippine leader’s remark about being “happy to slaughter” 3 million drug addicts is “deeply troubling.”
Early on Friday, Mr. Duterte, speaking to reporters at Davao International Airport after arriving from a two-day official visit to Vietnam, said his critics were threatening to bring him before an international court for the killing of thousands of people in his bloody war on drugs and complained that they were picturing him as “a cousin of Hitler” even if nothing had been proven against him.
Noting that Hitler had murdered millions of Jews, Mr. Duterte said he was also willing to kill the 3 million drug addicts in the Philippines if it were the only way to solve the country’s drug problem.
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“There are 3 million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said.
“If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have …,” he said, pausing and pointing to himself.
“You know my victims. I would like (them) to be all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition,” he said.
Israel’s foreign ministry yesterday said it was “unfortunate” that Mr. Duterte chose to invoke Hitler and the Holocaust in his bloody anticrime war.
Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel was convinced Mr. Duterte would “find a way to clarify his words.”
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder on Friday said Mr. Duterte’s remarks were “revolting” and demanded that he retract them and apologize.
“Drug abuse is a serious issue. But what President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life that is truly heartbreaking for the democratically elected leader of a great country,” Lauder said in a statement issued from Jerusalem, where he was attending the funeral of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres.
Yesterday, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Adam Dieng, said Mr. Duterte’s remarks were “deeply disrespectful of the right to life of all human beings.”
In a statement issued from New York, Dieng stressed that the Holocaust was one of the darkest periods of the history of humankind, and that any glorification of the cruel and criminal acts committed by those responsible was unacceptable and offensive.
Dieng urged Mr. Duterte “to exercise restraint in the use of language that could exacerbate discrimination, hostility and violence, and encourage the commission of criminal acts which, if widespread or systematic, could amount to crimes against humanity.”
Dieng also exhorted Mr. Duterte to support instead the investigation of the reported killings in his war on drugs and crime.
Speaking on the sidelines of a regional security summit of Southeast Asian ally nations, Carter, the US defense chief, said he had not discussed Mr. Duterte’s comments with his Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana, who also attended the meeting.
“Just speaking personally for myself, I find these comments deeply troubling,” Carter said.
The Pentagon chief noted that the Philippines is a longtime US treaty ally.
“Like all alliances, it depends on the continuation of a sense of shared interests,” he added. “So far in US-Philippine history we have had that. We look forward to continuing that. But that’s something that we continue to discuss with the Philippine government.”
In Manila, the US Embassy issued a statement yesterday calling Mr. Duterte’s comments “deeply troubling.”
“America’s partnership with the Philippines has long been based on a foundation of shared values, including our shared belief in human rights and dignity,” US Embassy press attaché Molly Koscina said.
“President Duterte’s recent comments depart from that common tradition and are deeply troubling,” she said.
The German government on Friday said it called in Philippine Ambassador Melita S. Sta. Maria-Thomaczek and told her that Mr. Duterte’s likening his deadly war on drugs to Hitler’s effort to exterminate Jews were “unacceptable.”
“Any comparison of the singular atrocities of the Holocaust with anything else is totally unacceptable,” ministry spokesperson Martin Schaefer told reporters.
Germany, Europe’s top economy, has expressed serious concerns about Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs, which has cost the lives of more than 3,000 people in three months and threatened a breakdown of the rule of law in the Philippines.
“Those killings—and the government’s celebration of them as evidence of a successful ‘war on drugs’—are nothing less than mass killings disguised as ‘crime control,’” Phelim Kine, deputy director for Asia of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
In an interview on CNN on Friday night, Kine noted that Mr. Duterte had warned that more people would be killed, and urged urgent action by the international community.
Amnesty International (AI) also slammed Mr. Duterte’s remarks.
“With this latest outburst, President Duterte has sunk to new depths. Governments—both in the region and around the world—should speak out immediately and condemn these outrageous statements,” Josef Benedict, AI deputy director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement issued on Friday.
“They serve no discernible purpose other than to put more lives at risk,” he said.
“Since coming to power, there has been a surge of state-sanctioned violence and unlawful killings across the Philippines. Instead of stopping and condemning these human-rights violations, and ensuring those responsible are held to account, he has vowed to escalate them,” Benedict said.
“Mass killings under President Duterte must end,” he added.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed alarm over Mr. Duterte’s comments.
“[Mr. Duterte’s words are] something we are concerned about because [they create] the backdrop, the bigger message arc. We’ll monitor closely the possible implication and meaning of those words,” CHR chair Jose Luis Gascon said by phone yesterday.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Mr. Duterte’s remarks were a public admission of being behind “Hitler-like killings” in the war on drugs.
“President Duterte’s rhetoric has worsened from recklessness to culpability, from accusations to confession of guilt,” Lagman said.
He said Mr. Duterte’s comments were an attempt to justify the killing of drug addicts without due process.
“His having compared himself to Hitler, who caused the slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II, is a virtual confession that the extrajudicial killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers and addicts since the start of his term almost 100 days ago, have been instigated, encouraged and condoned by him,” Lagman said.
The left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also objected to Mr. Duterte’s reference to Hitler.
“We do not subscribe to the President’s referencing of Hitler in relation to the war on drugs and the killings of so-called drug addicts. Killings by state forces of unarmed civilians, even if they are suspected criminals, goes against the principle of due process,” Bayan said in a statement yesterday.
‘Height of insensitivity’
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of Permanent Committee on Public Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said Mr. Duterte’s drawing parallels with is war on drugs and the Holocaust was the “height of insensitivity.” With reports from Jeannette I. Andrade, DJ Yap and Tina G. Santos; Ivan Angelo L. de Lara, Inquirer.net; AP and AFP/TVJ