President Rodrigo Duterte was not likening himself to Adolf Hitler. Instead, he was responding to critics who compared him to the Nazi leader because of the thousands of alleged drug suspects killed under his watch. This is how Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella clarifies President Duterte's latest round of controversial remarks — now gaining worldwide attention again.
Malacañang issued a clarification on Saturday following the negative reactions from the international community and the several news reports saying the President likened himself to the Nazi leader.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President meant no harm, as he was just addressing the negative comparison people have made between him and Hitler.
"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," Abella said in a statement posted on the Presidential Communications Operations Office Facebook page.
"We do not wish to diminish the profound loss of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust — that deep midnight of their story as a people," Abella added.
History counts the cost of Hitler's purges against "undesirables" at six million, the vast majority of whom were Jews.
Abella said Duterte drew an "oblique conclusion, that while the Holocaust was an attempt to exterminate the future generations of Jews, the so-called "extra-judicial killings", wrongly attributed to him, will nevertheless result in the salvation of the next generation of Filipinos."
"Hitler murdered 3 million innocent civilians whereas 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. "Those are two entirely different things," he clarified.
Duterte said on Friday, it was unfair for critics to portray him like a "cousin of Hitler" without even investigation. But Duterte later on embraced the comparison by saying if Hitler massacred millions of Jews, he'd be more than happy to slaughter the estimated three million drug addicts in the Philippines — if it means being able to finish the country's drug problem.
UN, human rights groups react
Prior to Malacanang's clarification, United Nations and United States officials, plus some international human rights groups, expressed concern to the tough-talking President's comments.
United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng was alarmed at the Hitler remarks of Duterte.
"Deeply disrespectful of the right to life of all human beings," he said in a statement.
He added that such comments were also undermining the efforts of the international community to develop strategies to prevent the recurrence of those cruel and criminal acts.
Dieng also called on Duterte to be mindful of using words that could make discrimination and hostility worse.
Pentagon Chief Ash Carter, meanwhile, personally found Duterte's comment as "deeply troubling."
Carter added that Duterte's Hitler remark was not discussed in his meeting with defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He also said the comment will not affect the relationship between the Philippines and U.S.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner echoed Carter's personal sentiment, "We find them troubling."
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 Simon Wiesenthal Center is a global human rights organization that promotes human rights and dignity and and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust.
"The comparison of drug users and dealers to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust is inappropriate and deeply offensive," said the Anti-Defamation League.
Meanwhile the Human Rights Watch Asia said Duterte's comments referencing Hitler and the Holocaust are "on their face obscene."