Philippines' Duterte draws Hitler parallels in war on drugs

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Davao (Philippines) (AFP) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday likened his deadly crime war to Hitler's efforts to exterminate Jews, as he declared he was "happy to slaughter" millions of drug addicts.

Duterte also railed against Western critics of his unprecedented law-and-order crackdown, which has left more than 3,000 people dead in three months and raised concerns about a breakdown in the rule of law in one of Asia's most chaotic democracies.

"Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I'd be happy to slaughter them," Duterte told reporters in his home city of Davao, although he vastly underestimated the number of people killed in the Holocaust by the Nazi leader's regime.

"At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have," he said, then paused. "But you know, my victims, I would like to be (sic) all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition."

Duterte, 71, won elections in May in a landslide after a campaign dominated by his pledge to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.

The lawyer and former city prosecutor promised immunity for security forces if they were charged with murder, and on his first day in office urged residents of a Manila slum to kill drug addicts within their own community.

His police chief also urged addicts to burn down the homes of drug traffickers and kill them.

Since Duterte came to power on June 30, police have killed more than 1,200 people and about 1,800 others have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures.

A piece of cardboard, with "drug peddler" or "drug addict" written on it, is frequently placed on corpses that are left on the streets. This has led to the war on crime becoming known as "cardboard justice".

- 'Revolting, inhumane' -

Duterte has faced a barrage of criticism from Western governments and rights groups, but he has reacted defiantly and often with abusive language while insisting he is not doing anything illegal.

Duterte has branded US President Barack Obama a "son of a whore", called UN chief Ban Ki-moon a "fool" and used expletives in referring to the European Union while raising his middle finger.

His analogy with Adolf Hitler, whose campaign to wipe out Jews in Europe led to about six million deaths by the end of World War II, triggered more condemnation.

"Any comparison of the singular atrocities of the Holocaust with anything else is totally unacceptable," German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder described Duterte's comments as "revolting" and demanded he apologise.

"What President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life," Lauder said in a statement.

- Hypocrisy -

Duterte on Friday also criticised the European Union and the United States for alleged inaction on the migrant crisis emanating from the Middle East.

"You US, EU. You can call me anything. But I was never into or I am never into hypocrisy like you," he said.

"There are migrants escaping from the Middle East. You allow them to rot and then you're worried about the deaths of about 1,000, 2,000, 3,000?"

In response to American criticism, Duterte has signalled he intends to downgrade military ties with longtime ally the United States, while forging closer relations with China and Russia.

Duterte said this week he intended to end joint military exercises with the United States.

The nations conduct war games regularly in the Philippines and coastal waters, which previous governments have intended as a form of deterrence against China's ambitions to control most of the South China Sea.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter responded to Duterte's comments by insisting on Thursday America's alliance with the Philippines remained "ironclad".

But Duterte on Friday insisted the war games next week involving more than 1,000 troops would be the last of his six-year term, as he hit out again at the United States.

"Do not pretend to be the moral conscience of the world," he said.

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