NEW: World Jewish Congress called the remarks "revolting"
President Duterte invokes Hitler and massacre of Jews in speech about drug killings
Duterte's comments are the latest in a long line of controversial remarks
When comparing yourself to world leaders or historical figures, there are perhaps less controversial choices than Adolf Hitler.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday likened himself to the Nazi leader, saying he wants to kill millions of drug addicts, just as Hitler killed Jews during the Holocaust.
“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there is 3 million, what is it, 3 million drug addicts (in the Philippines), there are,” he said in a speech in his hometown of Davao City.
“I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have (me). 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.”
History counts the cost of Hitler’s purges against “undesirables” at 11 million, 6 million of whom were Jews.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, in Israel to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, condemned the remarks.
“These statements are revolting, and President Duterte must retract them and apologize,” Lauder said. “We just marked the 75th anniversary of Babi Yar, the massacre of more than 33,000 Jews in Ukraine by Nazi Germany. … Now, the elected leader of the Philippines openly calls for the mass murder of people who are addicted to drugs.
“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.”
The controversial leader campaigned on a hard line against crime, particularly drug offenses, and has in the past uttered statements which have caused many in the international community to recoil.
Hard line on crime
Since taking office in June, Duterte has stood by his promise to crack down hard on crime, with hundreds of suspected drug users killed by his police force, alongside hundreds of others deaths attributed to vigilante killings.
Police have made thousands of arrests and have implemented a controversial “knock and plead” policy of visiting suspected drug users at their homes and inviting them to register as users with their local community officials.
Duterte is currently embroiled in Senate hearings, defending himself against accusations of police wrongdoing for the drug deaths and claims that he operated death squads in Davao, where he served as mayor for two decades.
Duterte himself confirmed the claims during a regular live weekly TV show broadcast locally in the Philippines last year.
“Me? They are saying that I’m part of a death squad? True, that’s true,” he said in a mix of English and Visayan, a language spoken in southern Philippines, before threatening to kill thousands more criminals and dump them into Manila Bay if he was elected president of the Philippines.
He later retracted the statement, but has admitted to killing two kidnapping suspects on a police raid while mayor.
His political ally, the boxer and Philippines Senator Manny Pacquiao, had Duterte critic Senator Leila De Lima removed as chair of the Justice and Human Rights Committee.
De Lima has long sought to have Duterte officially investigated over alleged death squad killings in Davao, and rights groups have denounced his apparent “impunity.” Duterte has stepped up his attacks on her in recent weeks.
History of controversy
Duterte is no stranger to making outrageous comments. He’s joked about not being able to join the gang rape of an Australian missionary, cursed out the Pope, called both US President Obama and the US Ambassador to the Philippines a “son of a bitch,” and told police they can kill drug dealers if they fight back.
When discussing the pontiff, he said that the traffic caused by Pope Francis’ visit to the country had angered him.
“We were affected by the traffic. It took us five hours. I asked why, they said it was closed. I asked who is coming. They answered, the Pope. I wanted to call him, “Pope, (swear words), go home. Do not visit us again,” he said.
Discussing Obama while in Laos for an ASEAN summit earlier in September, he said: “Who does he think he is? I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people.”
He also declared, “Son of a bitch, I will swear at you,” though he later claimed that remark was directed at a journalist and not at Obama.
On Thursday, he told members of the Filipino community in Hanoi that he would be ending joint Philippines-US military drills after the exercises scheduled for early October.
Duterte: EU, US ‘hypocrites’
After the Hitler comparison, Duterte went on to defend himself against criticism from the US and EU, which have expressed concerns about Duterte’s war on drugs and allegations of extrajudicial killings.
“You, US, EU, you can call me anything, but I was never into or I am never into hypocrisy like you. Close your doors and when there’s time, there are migrants escaping from the Middle East,” Duterte said.
“You allow them to rot. And then you’re worried about the deaths of a one thousand, two thousand, three thousand?
“That’s why if you were in my position, why would you not curse? You are portrayed or pictured to be some, a cousin of Hitler, and yet do not even bother to find out to investigate this.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the number of deaths in the Holocaust. Eleven million died, 6 million of whom were Jews.