President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to liken himself to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler on Saturday and said he would “be happy” to exterminate 3 million drug users and peddlers in the Philippines.
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.
“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.
Shock and anger
His comments triggered shock and anger among Jewish groups in the United States, which will add to pressure on the US government to take a tougher line with the Philippine leader.
Mr. Duterte recently insulted US President Barack Obama and in a series of remarks he has undermined the previously close relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
Mr. Duterte made the comments in a speech on his arrival in Davao City after a visit to Vietnam, telling reporters that he was under threat of being brought before an international court for genocide because of the killings of thousands of drug suspects in his brutal war on drugs and that he had been “portrayed to be a cousin of Hitler” by critics even if nothing had been proven against him.
Mr. Duterte was voted to power in the May presidential election on the back of a vow to end drugs and crime. He promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay, where fish would grow fat from feeding on them.
The former mayor of Davao City took office on June 30 and more than 3,000 people have been killed since then, mostly alleged drug users and dealers, in police operations and in vigilante killings.
Jewish groups protest
Mr. Duterte’s comments were quickly condemned by Jewish groups.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate project, called them “outrageous.”
“(Mr.) Duterte owes the victims (of the Holocaust) an apology for his disgusting rhetoric,” Cooper said.
The Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish group based in the United States, said Mr. Duterte’s comments were “shocking for their tone-deafness.”
“The comparison of drug users and dealers to Holocaust victims is inappropriate and deeply offensive,” said Todd Gutnick, the group’s director of communications. “It is baffling why any leader would want to model himself after such a monster.”
There were no comments from the embassies of Israel and the United States in Manila on Saturday.
Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said there were no statements from other foreign missions in Manila.
British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad preferred not to comment, saying in a text message: “There is no dignified way to respond to any positive references to Hitler.”
Philippine lawmakers condemned Mr. Duterte’s remarks.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said Mr. Duterte may have opened himself to prosecution in international courts by saying he would like to slaughter 3 million Filipinos.
“Is he implying that it’s open season now for all addicts, no more rehab, just kill them systematically like what the Nazis did with the Jews?” Baguilat said.
“Mr. President, comparing yourself with Hitler is troubling, to say the least. You are talking about committing genocide,” said Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.
“Threatening to massacre 3 million Filipinos—all of whom the President claims to be drug criminals—is a serious matter,” she said.
Etta Rosales, former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, chided Mr. Duterte for his comments.
“I’m not certain if Mr. Duterte was joking, as he is fond to explain when he gets caught with controversial statements that go against national policy. But even if he was just joking, comparing himself to Adolf Hitler—a global criminal of the Second World War condemned by civilization for the crimes against humanity he had committed when he slaughtered 6 million Jews in Europe—is nothing to kid about even in banter among friends,” Rosales said.
“Mr. Duterte is treading dangerous ground. He expects us all to accept the possibility that a President can commit crimes against humanity akin to genocide by slaughtering 3 million poor users and pushers of drugs because, as far as Mr. Duterte sees them, they are derelicts of society, the scum of the earth which are better eradicated in order to redeem ‘his’ country from them,” she said.
Noting that the Rome Statute, to which the Philippines is a party, defines the slaughter of millions as a crime against humanity, Rosales suggested that the slaughter of thousands of suspected drug users and pushers in the Philippines “deserves the scrutiny and investigation of the International Criminal Court if the Philippines refuses to take over jurisdiction.”
“The ICC can have jurisdiction over this heinous crime, too, and, as a member of the United Nations, we are bound to comply,” she said.
Two days before the May 9 elections, outgoing President Benigno Aquino III had warned that Mr. Duterte’s rising popularity was akin to that of Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s.
“I hope we learn the lessons of history,” Aquino said in widely reported remarks. “We should remember how Hitler came to power.”
Mr. Duterte has been scathing about international criticism of his war on drugs and has insulted the United Nations and the European Union, as well as Obama, at various times in recent weeks. Reports from AFP; DJ Yap, Jeannette I. Andrade and Jaymee T. Gamil in Manila; Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao/TVJ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.