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Duterte likening himself to Hitler makes me ashamed, too

Philippines
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Presidential candidate Rodrigo 'Digong' Duterte talks to the media before casting his vote at a polling precinct for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao city in southern Philippines, 9 May 2016. © Reuters/Erik De Castro

I still remember the visit I made to a former concentration camp in the Czech Republic many, many years ago.

It taught me that it really was unimaginable to live during the Holocaust years. I saw blood stained clothes, barbed wires that prevented prisoners from escaping. And letters to home, wherever home was. There's so much pain one can only imagine. But to the millions of Jews, the pain was real.

Coming from the Philippines, the Holocaust was a period in history far from my consciousness, but its ghosts echo far across the globe, even to East Asia, until now.

I’ve read about it and grew up hearing about Hitler’s atrocities. I watched Schindler’s List and Shining Through. I read Anne Frank’s Diary and even visited her house in Amsterdam.

It was all over indeed and it was hell on earth.

And so I am deeply, profoundly ashamed when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte likened himself to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Worldbeaters profile:
Rodrigo Duterte

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The president of the Philippines he may be, but his reputation is as a Dirty Harry of vigilante politics.

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He has apologized a day after he said it following a global backlash from Jewish communities, human rights organizations and the German government.

I can imagine that for many Jewish communities around the world, the damage has been done even with the apology.

‘Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there is three million, there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I'd be happy to slaughter them,’ Duterte said in a recent speech.

Duterte was wrong. At least six million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust.

He compared his campaign against suspected drug peddlers and criminals with Hitler's murder of Jews.

As the country’s 16th President, Duterte won the elections on an aggressive anti-crime platform.

He warned that it would be bloody and it has been exactly as he said it would be.

As of this writing, more than 3,000 people have died in police operations and vigilante style killings since he became president.


In a community in Quezon City, one evening in September, a team of police killed an alleged drug pusher as part of its anti-drug campaign. The crowd in the slum community look on as the police take the lifeless body to the morgue for an autopsy. Photo by Iris Gonzales

His 20 year reign as mayor of Davao also saw the rise of vigilante groups.

Duterte indeed has no qualms espousing violence.

But Jewish groups all over the globe and human rights groups said his comments during his recent speech went way too far.

‘What President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life,’ the World Jewish Congress said.

After a worldwide backlash, Duterte and his spokespersons scrambled to control the damage, blaming the media for twisting the president’s words.

But there’s no mistaking it.

The video record proved that indeed Duterte likened himself to the Nazi dictator Hitler and did not contrast himself.

He said he was ready to kill three million drug addicts.

At first, he started by decrying criticisms that portrayed him as Hitler-like.

‘You’re portrayed or pictured to be some … a cousin of Hitler,’ Duterte said, referring to his critics.

But in the same breath, he embraced the comparison.

‘At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have, you know [pointing 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,’ Duterte said.

Clearly, there was no mistaking it.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments referencing Hitler and the Holocaust are on their face obscene. 

‘But the lesson of the first three months of Duterte’s presidency is that we should not underestimate the impact of his statements on police and others with firearms to lawlessly slaughter their fellow Filipinos without fear of arrest,’ said Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director of HRW. 

Similarly, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed alarm at Duterte's comments in which he reinforced a campaign to kill millions of drug addicts in the Philippines and compared it to the massacre of millions of Jews by Hitler during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany during World War II.

Dieng qualified the statement as deeply disrespectful of the right to life of all human beings.  ‘The Holocaust was one of the darkest periods of the history of humankind and that any glorification of the cruel and criminal acts committed by those responsible was unacceptable and offensive,’ he said.

He added that such statement was also undermining the efforts of the international community to develop strategies to prevent the recurrence of those crimes, to which all countries around the world should be committed to.

Local Philippine broadsheet The Philippine Daily Inquirer, in an editorial also said there’s absolutely no justification for the president’s outrageous statement.

‘This genocide, often described as the worst crime against humanity, is not something to be emulated, or to be used as a benchmark. No self-respecting country or government should measure itself against the systematic mass murder of an entire people,’ the Inquirer said.

Indeed, there's no justification at all.

President Duterte has apologized but the damage has been done. I am ashamed and sorry, too, that this had to happen.

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