(JTA) — Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte apologized for the comparison of his campaign to eliminate drug use in his country to the Holocaust.
Duterte on Friday compared his plan to kill millions of drug dealers and drug users to Adolf Hitler’s extermination of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
“The president recognizes the deep significance of the Jewish experience especially their tragic and painful history,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Saturday in a statement, CNN reported. “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.”
The statement said Duterte drew an “oblique conclusion, that while the Holocaust was an attempt to exterminate the future generation of Jews, drug-related killings as a result of legitimate police operations … will nevertheless result in the salvation of the next generation of Filipinos.”
In his speech on Friday, which was roundly condemned by Jewish groups and Jewish and Israeli leaders, Duterte said: “Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts. … I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte told reporters Friday, GMA News reported. Duterte misspoke on the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust, however.
Duterte was addressing critics who have compared him to Hitler for his “war on drugs,” which has left over 3,000 Filipinos dead since he took office in July.
Abella also said that the president “deplores the Hitler allusion of President Duterte’s anti-drug war as another crude attempt to vilify the president in the eyes of the world.”
This is not Duterte’s first controversial statement as president. After President Barack Obama criticized the Philippines government’s mass detention of drug dealers in August, Duterte called him a phrase that has been widely translated as “son of a whore.”
The United Nations and the European Union also both oppose Duterte’s drug war tactics. Many of the related killings have been carried out by vigilante groups, who target names on police lists — which may or may not be accurate — and, according to the Washington Post, leave bodies on the sides of roads with signs that read “pusher.”