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Israel said planning for visit by Philippines leader Duterte

Firebrand president has compared himself to Hitler, said he wants to ‘slaughter’ millions of country’s drug addicts

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech to military personnel in Manila, on October 4, 2016. (AFP/Ted Aljibe)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech to military personnel in Manila, on October 4, 2016. (AFP/Ted Aljibe)

Despite international condemnation and a rash of controversial comments including comparing himself favorably to Hitler over a brutal crackdown on drug users, Israel is said to be preparing for an official visit by the firebrand Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Israeli and Philippines foreign ministries are currently working together to secure a date for the trip after Duterte expressed interest in coming to the Jewish state, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

“There are many controversial leaders in the world and many countries that criticize them. Duterte is not boycotted by the world, there are no sanctions against him and he has visited a number of countries since taking office,” an Israeli official told the paper, estimating that the trip would take place in the coming months.

The Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests from The Times of Israel to comment on the report.

Most trips by Duterte have been to countries in Southeast Asia.

While Duterte has been criticized for brutal policies on drug users and for making off-color comments, including calling US president Barack Obama a “son of a bitch,” Israel has maintained positive ties with Manila, continuing to sell it arms.

This photo taken March 9, 2017 shows detained drunks and shirtless men, doing 60 push-ups, as punishment during the police's operation called "Oplan RODY", an acronym for Rid the Streets of Drinkers and Youths, and also President Rodrigo Duterte's nickname, at Paranaque police headquarters, suburban Manila. AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE)
This photo taken March 9, 2017 shows detained drunks and shirtless men doing push-ups as punishment during the police’s operation called ‘Oplan RODY,’ an acronym for Rid the Streets of Drinkers and Youths, and also President Rodrigo Duterte’s nickname, at Paranaque police headquarters, suburban Manila. (AFP/Ted Aljibe)

According to the Haaretz report, In October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone to Duterte in an attempt to persuade the Philippines to vote against a UNESCO vote condemning Israel. While the resolution was voted on in a secret ballot, the Philippines are widely thought to have opposed the motion.

That phone call would have taken place days after Duterte announced that he planned to purchase all of his country’s military equipment from Israel.

In a speech at one of the Philippines synagogues, Duterte said he had instructed his national security adviser, retired general Hermogenes Esperson, to “not buy from anyone except from Israel.”

Duterte had come to the synagogue in order to apologize for comments he made the week before, comparing his desire to “slaughter” his country’s drug addicts with Hitler’s massacre of Jews.

“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts [in the Philippines]. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte said in his home town of Davao after returning from a visit to Vietnam on September 30.

Duterte said he apologized “profoundly” to the Jewish people, but maintained that he “will kill three million people.”

Critics have warned of extrajudicial killings and other widespread human rights abuses in the crackdown, with Amnesty International saying last month that Duterte may be guilty of crimes against humanity.

Israel has sold weaponry to the Philippines in the past. In 2014, the Israeli Elbit Systems defense company won a tender to upgrade 28 armored personnel carriers for the Philippines Armed Forces, which were delivered in July 2015.

In February 2016, the Philippines Department of National Defense said it would be purchasing radar equipment from a subsidiary of the Israel Aerospace Industries, a defense company owned by the State of Israel, the military news outlet IHS Janes reported.

An Israeli surveillance vehicle is exhibited at an expo of Israeli intelligence-gathering technology in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
An Israeli surveillance vehicle is exhibited at an expo of Israeli intelligence-gathering technology in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

According to local Philippines media, Duterte is now interested in purchasing both surveillance equipment and weaponry from the Jewish state.

In a speech in September to the Philippines Armed Forces and again at the Makati City synagogue, the Philippines president expressed concern that countries selling military technology to him would put “bugs” in the equipment to listen in on the island nation’s conversations.

“You should get it as fast as Israel can produce it. I’m buying,” Duterte told Filipino troops on September 20. “If I get it from America, you are talking here secret — blah, blah, blah — and they are listening.”

Israel, on the other hand, can be trusted, he said.

“We have excellent relations,” Duterte said. “They will not include a bug there for them to listen also to what they have sold to us.”

Judah Ari Gross and Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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