MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte refused to back down on Saturday over his “willingness to kill” millions of people, as global condemnation mounted against the link he made between his crime war and Adolf Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Jews.
Duterte on Friday drew parallels with the Nazis’ mass murder of 6 million Jews and his anti-drug crackdown, which has left more than 3,000 people dead and raised concerns about the rule of law crumbling in the Philippines.
Facing a fierce international backlash, Duterte’s spokesman released a statement insisting the president did not want to be compared with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler but confirmed he was prepared to kill 3 million people in his crime war.
“We do not wish to diminish the profound loss of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust,” presidential 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.”
Nevertheless, Abella confirmed Duterte had intended to say he wanted to kill millions of people in the Philippines to achieve his mission of eradicating illegal drugs.
“Duterte was referencing to his ‘willingness to kill’ 3 million criminal drug dealers to save the future of the next generation and the country,” Abella said.
On Friday Duterte raised the example of Hitler’s genocidal campaign against Jews, as he talked about his efforts to extinguish the illegal drug trade in the Philippines.
“There are 3 million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said.
“At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have … ” he said, then paused. “But 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, 71, won elections in May in a landslide after a campaign dominated by his pledge to eradicate drugs by killing tens of thousands of people.
Since he took office on June 30, police have killed more than 1,200 people and about 1,800 others have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures. Most of the latter killings are believed to have been committed by vigilantes or rival drug dealers.
The United States, a former colonial ruler of the Philippines and until Duterte’s ascent its most important ally, condemned his Hitler comments.
“I’ll stress that [the relationship] has to be one that’s based on shared values, democratic values, respect for human rights, and words matter,” US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.
“And within that context, President Duterte’s comments are a significant departure from that tradition. And we find them troubling.”
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter also described Duterte’s comments as “deeply troubling”.
The United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, warned in a statement that Duterte may be in danger of committing crimes against humanity.
Dieng called on Duterte 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 congressional allies Sarah Elago and Marjohara Tucay of the small Kabataan (Youth) party drew a line at the Hitler comments.
“When it comes to your independent foreign policy … we can lend you unequivocal support. But if you start comparing yourself to Hitler, we will not have any of it,” they said in a statement.
Duterte has in recent months faced relentless criticism from Western governments and rights groups over the apparent extrajudicial killings.
US President Barack Obama called on Duterte to fight his drug war “the right way”, and to respect the rule of law.
Duterte has typically reacted with defiance and abusive language to his critics, while insisting he is not doing anything illegal.
Duterte has branded Obama a “son of a whore”, called UN chief Ban Ki-moon a “fool” and said “fuck you” to the European Union while raising his middle finger.
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