Philip­pines’ Duterte likens him­self to Hitler, wants to kill mil­lions of drug users

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte ap­peared to liken him­self to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler on Fri­day and said he would “be happy” to ex­ter­mi­nate three mil­lion drug users and ped­dlers in the coun­try.

His com­ments trig­gered shock and anger among Jewish groups in the United States, which could add to pres­sure on the U.S. gov­ern­ment to take a tougher line with the Philip­pines leader.

Duterte re­cently in­sulted Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and in a num­ber of re­marks he has un­der­mined the pre­vi­ously close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Manila and Wash­ing­ton.

In a ram­bling speech on his ar­rival in Davao City af­ter a visit to Viet­nam, Duterte told re­porters that he had been “por­trayed to be a cousin of Hitler” by crit­ics.

Not­ing that Hitler had mur­dered mil­lions of Jews, Duterte said, “There are three 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.”

Duterte was voted to power in a May elec­tion on the back of a vow to end drugs and cor­rup­tion in the coun­try of 100 mil­lion peo­ple. He took of­fice on June 30 and over 3,100 peo­ple have been killed since then, mostly al­leged drug users and deal­ers, in po­lice op­er­a­tions and vig­i­lante killings.

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”.

“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 Duterte’s com­ments were “shock­ing for their tonedeaf­ness”.

“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.”

United Na­tions spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric said any use of “the Holo­caust and the suf­fer­ing of the Holo­caust in com­par­i­son to any­thing else, frankly, is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and needs to be re­jected.” He said Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon had made clear that the fight against il­le­gal drugs must be done “in ac­cor­dance with hu­man rights stan­dards”.

State Depart­ment spokesman Mark Toner called Duterte’s re­marks “trou­bling”.

“Amer­ica’s . . . part­ner­ship with the Philip­pines is . . . based on a mu­tual foun­da­tion of shared val­ues and that in­cludes our shared be­lief in hu­man rights and hu­man dig­nity,” Toner said.

“Pres­i­dent Duterte’s com­ments are a sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture from that tra­di­tion and we find them trou­bling.”

A White House of­fi­cial stuck to a strat­egy of stress­ing long-stand­ing ties with Manila, say­ing, “We con­tinue to fo­cus on our broad re­la­tion­ship with the Philip­pines and will work to­gether in the many ar­eas of mu­tual in­ter­est.”

Two days be­fore the Philip­pines elec­tion, out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino had warned that Duterte’s ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity was akin to that of Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s.

Duterte has been scathing about crit­i­cism of his anti-drugs cam­paign and has in­sulted the United Na­tions and the Euro­pean Union, as well as Obama, at var­i­ous times in re­cent weeks.

On Fri­day, re­act­ing to crit­i­cal com­ments on his war on drugs by U.S. Sen­a­tors Pa­trick Leahy and Ben­jamin Cardin, Duterte said: “Do not pre­tend to be the moral conscience of the world. Do not be the po­lice­man be­cause you do not have the el­i­gi­bil­ity to do that in my coun­try.”

He also re­it­er­ated there will be no an­nual war games be­tween the Philip­pines and the United States un­til the end of his six-year term, plac­ing the long­stand­ing al­liance un­der a cloud of doubt. It also may make Wash­ing­ton’s strat­egy of re­bal­anc­ing its mil­i­tary fo­cus to­ward Asia in the face of an in­creas­ingly as­sertive China much more dif­fi­cult to achieve. Still, U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter, speak­ing be­fore the lat­est re­marks from Duterte, said Wash­ing­ton had an “iron­clad” al­liance with Manila.

A se­nior U.S. de­fense of­fi­cial, also speak­ing ear­lier, told re­porters that the United States had a long en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Philip­pines re­gard­less of who was pres­i­dent.

Mur­ray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia ex­pert at the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional and Strate­gic Stud­ies think tank in Wash­ing­ton, said Obama was “tak­ing the long view” in deal­ing with Duterte. Obama leaves of­fice in Jan­uary.

Mal­colm Cook, a se­nior fel­low at Sin­ga­pore’s ISEAS Yu­sof Ishak In­sti­tute, said the U.S-Philip­pines al­liance was not nec­es­sar­ily at risk, but Wash­ing­ton could seek to fo­cus on ties elsewhere in the re­gion.

“We are all in some sense be­com­ing, by ne­ces­sity, de­sen­si­tized to Duterte’s lan­guage,” he said.

“Diplo­mat­i­cally, the U.S. would say they’ll con­tinue to work with him and the al­liance is strong. But it’s whether they’ll con­tinue to strengthen that al­liance or not.”

Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte ges­tures dur­ing a news con­fer­ence upon his ar­rival from a state visit in Viet­nam at the In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Davao city, Philip­pines Septem­ber 30, 2016.

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