Duterte rejects ‘Hitler’ label, Philippines leader’s spokesman clarifies

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte © Lean Daval Jr
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman was forced to explain the leader’s recent comparison of himself to Hitler, after the remark had drawn the ire of Jewish groups and others who continue to pile on over his crackdown on drug crime.

“We do not wish to diminish the profound loss of six million Jews in the Holocaust,” spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

“The president’s reference to the slaughter was an oblique deflection of the way he has been pictured as a mass murderer, a Hitler, a label he rejects.”

Since coming to power in late June, the defiant Philippines leader’s direct and undiplomatic remarks have often landed him in hot water, especially with those opposed to his crime policy.

Most recently, on Friday, Duterte complained that his campaign of eradicating drugs was leading to undeserved comparisons to some “cousin of Hitler.” His comments, which were initially intended to counter the Hitler comparisons, ended up coming across to many as being more of a boast than a complaint.

“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are three million drug addicts… I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said. “At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…” he said, before pausing to switch gears: “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.”

Jewish groups lashed out at Duterte for the remark.

“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 heart-breaking for the democratically-elected leader of a great country,” said Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress.

“President Duterte must retract them and apologize,” he added.
The German Foreign Ministry summoned the Philippines ambassador as a result as well.

“Any comparison of the singular atrocities of the Holocaust with anything else is totally unacceptable,” German Foreign Ministry Spokesman Martin Schaefer told AFP.

The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, told the agency that Duterte could be in danger of committing crimes against humanity, as he urged the president in a statement 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.”

Duterte, who had won a landslide victory in May, already has a series of controversial remarks under his belt, including calling US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch,” as well as referring to the UN Secretary-General as “that old fool” – remarks intended to hit back at their criticism of his policy on drug crime.

Since he took office, there have been some 1,200 killings by police and 1,800 more unexplained ones, according to official statistics.