Duterte warned of people power
CANBERRA—The budding police state of President Duterte has run into international outrage over the spiraling death toll in its brutal war on drugs. The outrage was triggered by the President’s inflammatory remarks in which he drew parallels between the extrajudicial killing of suspected drug users and pushers in the Philippines and Hitler’s extermination of Jews before and during World War II.
Mr. Duterte’s comparison of the continuing drug-related bloodbath to the Holocaust not only revealed him as a closet admirer of Hitler but also drew fire from groups in the United States, Israel and Germany, and international rights organizations.
The backlash is rocking his presidency of three months, which has been marked by a series of controversies involving its scorched-earth policy. Recently he vowed to continue to exterminate those suspected of involvement in drug syndicates “until the last drug pusher is out of the streets.”
Speaking to reporters last week on his return from a state visit to Vietnam, the President first expressed annoyance at being described as “a cousin of Hitler.” Then he said Hitler “massacred three million Jews,” and there are three million drug addicts in the Philippines. “I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said, adding: “If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have, you know…” He trailed off, and pointed to himself.
“My victims, I would like to be, all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition,” he said.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate project, called Mr. Duterte’s remarks “outrageous.” He said Mr. Duterte owed the victims of the Holocaust an apology for his “disgusting rhetoric.” (Mr. Duterte has since apologized.) The Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish group based in the United States, said his comments were “shocking for their tone deafness.” It added: “It is baffling why any leader would want to model himself after such a monster.”
Germany, the European Union’s top economy, has expressed serious concerns about Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on suspected drug users and pushers which has left more than 3,000 people dead in three months and threatened a breakdown of law and order. The German government has summoned the Philippine ambassador in Berlin and said Mr. Duterte’s comments likening his deadly war on drugs to Hitler’s mass murder of Jews were “unacceptable.” Some six million Jews were slaughtered by Nazi Germany by the end of World War II.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in his personal capacity that Mr. Duterte’s remarks were “deeply troubling.” He spoke with reporters during a regional security summit with defense ministers from Southeast Asian partner nations, including the Philippines. (Mr. Duterte has also said he would soon end US-PH joint military exercises—a symbolic blow to a longstanding military alliance.
As the body count mounts, and as Mr. Duterte’s combative rhetoric plumbs new depths, the mood in Washington toward a key US ally appeared to be hardening. Influential US lawmakers warned that the extrajudicial killings related to the war on drugs could affect American aid. And while the Obama administration maintained that the United States’ alliance with the Philippines remains “ironclad,” a senior US diplomat issued words of caution: “I think it would be a serious mistake in a democratic country like the Philippines to underestimate the power of the public’s affinity for the US. That’s people power,” said Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel. He recalled that past Philippine presidents had been toppled by popular protests dubbed as “people power,” including the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Amando Doronila was a regular columnist of the Inquirer from 1994 to May 2016.
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