Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has likened himself to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and says he would “be happy” to exterminate three million drug users and peddlers in the country.
His comments on Friday triggered shock and anger among Jewish groups in the US, which will add to pressure on the US government to take a tougher line with the Philippines leader.
Duterte recently insulted President Barack Obama and in a series of remarks he has undermined the previously close relationship between Manila and Washington.
In a rambling speech on his arrival in Davao City after a visit to Vietnam, Duterte told reporters he had been “portrayed to be a cousin of Hitler” by critics.
Noting that Hitler had murdered millions of Jews, Duterte said: “There are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them.
“If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,” he said, pausing and pointing to himself.
“You know my victims. I would like (them) to be all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.”
Duterte was voted to power in May on the back of a vow to end drugs and corruption.
He took office on June 30 and more than 3100 people have been killed since then, mostly alleged drug users and dealers, in police operations and in vigilante killings.
His comments were quickly condemned by Jewish groups, with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate project, calling them “outrageous”.
“Duterte owes the victims (of the Holocaust) an apology for his disgusting rhetoric.”
The Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish group based in the US, said Duterte’s comments were “shocking for their tone-deafness”.
Duterte has been scathing about criticism of his anti-drugs campaign and has insulted the United Nations and the European Union, as well as Obama, in recent weeks.
On Friday, reacting to criticism on his war on drugs by US senators Patrick Leahy and Benjamin Cardin, Duterte said: “Do not pretend to be the moral conscience of the world. Do not be the policeman because you do not have the eligibility to do that in my country.”
He also reiterated there would be no annual war games between the Philippines and the US until the end of his six-year term, placing the alliance under a cloud of doubt.
Still, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking before the latest remarks from Duterte, said Washington had an “ironclad” alliance with Manila.