MANILA - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's office sought to douse anger on Saturday (Oct 1) over the leader likening his brutal anti-crime war to Adolf Hitler’s massacre of over 6 million Jews, after his remarks drew rebukes from the United States, Germany and the United Nations.
“The Philippines recognises the deep significance of the Jewish experience, especially their tragic and painful history. We do not wish to diminish the profound loss of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, that deep midnight of their story as a people,” Mr Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Mr Abella said Mr Duterte’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”.
The firebrand President, known for undiplomatic, expletive-laced speeches and threats of extrajudicial execution of drug offenders, had referenced Hitler's massacre of millions of Jews in a speech in Davao City on Friday.
“There are 3 million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them. “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.”
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter described Mr Duterte’s comments as “deeply troubling” while Germany said they were "unacceptable".
Jewish groups also condemned Mr Duterte’s remarks. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Digital Terrorism and Hate project, called them “outrageous”.
“Duterte owes the victims (of the Holocaust) an apology for his disgusting rhetoric,” he 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 Mr Todd Gutnick, the group’s director of communications. “It is baffling why any leader would want to model himself after such a monster.”
Mr Abella, the presidential spokesman, said Mr Duterte was simply trying to “draw an oblique conclusion that, while the Holocaust was an attempt to exterminate the future generation of Jews, the so-called extrajudicial killings, wrongly attributed to him, will nevertheless result in the salvation of the next generation of Filipinos”.
“Hitler murdered (6 million) innocent civilians, whereas Duterte was referencing his ‘willingness to kill’ 3 million criminal drug dealers to save the future of the next generation and the country,” said Mr Abella.
Since Mr Duterte took office in June promising a grisly campaign against crime and drugs, the Philippines has seen a surge in killings of drug suspects.
Philippine officials have counted about 3,000 deaths, about a third of them at the hands of the police. The killings have drawn sharp criticisms from Western governments and human rights groups.
But Mr Duterte has reacted defiantly, and often with abusive language, to the criticism.
In the same speech on Friday, he attacked the US and the European Union again for their 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 death of about 1,000, 2,000, 3,000?”