Israel reportedly balked at signing a deal to expand police cooperation with the Philippines Wednesday, after the Justice Ministry raised objections over visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drug users.
Duterte is wrapping up a three-day visit to Israel Wednesday aimed at deepening ties with the Jewish state as well as signing arms deals.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been slated to sign an agreement with Duterte on cooperation between the countries’ police departments, according to Israel’s Hadashot news. But the signing was called off as the Justice Ministry grew wary of entering into an agreement with Manila due to Duterte’s violent crackdown on drug dealers and users, which has been forcefully denounced by human rights groups, the TV report said.
Duterte’s own government has acknowledged nearly 5,000 deaths and 50,000 arrests in his war on the drug trade; human rights groups put the figures far higher, and say most of those dead are the urban poor.
The Reuters news agency has published a series of exposés that indicate Duterte’s police have summarily executed hundreds of alleged drug dealers and users — shooting them in the head and heart at close range.
According to Hadashot, the ministry kept deleting clauses from the proposed cooperation agreement “until it became clear” that there was “nothing really left to sign.”
The Foreign Ministry confirmed a deal was being discussed, and said it could yet be signed at a later stage.
Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that “the agreement was not ready to be signed” and that it would require further coordination with Philippine authorities in the future.
Israel has sold assault rifles to the Philippines national police force in the past and new arms deal were expected to be signed while Duterte was in town. Israel’s Defense Ministry said it does not comment on arms sales.
Duterte has said in the past that he sees Israel as an alternative supplier of weapons after the US and other countries refused to sell him arms over human rights violations.
On Tuesday, Duterte told President Reuven Rivlin that he intends to exclusively buy military equipment from Israel due to the country’s lack of restrictions.
Rivlin, who came under pressure not to meet with the Philippines strongman, took the opportunity to school Duterte, who has in the past compared himself favorably to Hitler in the context of his war on drugs.
“Hitler was the devil himself,” Rivlin told the Philippines’ leader.
Israeli human rights groups had urged Rivlin not to welcome Duterte, calling him a “mass murderer.”
On Monday Duteret visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem where he said: “I hope that this will not happen again. I hope the world has learned the lesson. My country will make sure it does not happen again as much as we can.”