President Rodrigo Duterte will call off his visit to Israel only if human rights activists can convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his invitation, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a rights group wrote a letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, telling him that “there is no place for a mass murderer and a person who supports rape, shooting women in their sexual organs and bombing schools to meet with Israel’s President.”
In a press briefing, however, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that would not be a problem for the President if human rights activists can get the Israeli government to rescind Mr. Duterte’s visit.
“Good luck to them (human rights activists),” Roque told reporters.
“If they can persuade the Prime Minister to call off the visit, of course we will call it off. Walang problema,” he said.
To recall, ties between the Philippines and Israel turned sour in 2016 when Duterte compared himself to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in waging a brutal and bloody war on drugs.
“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews … there’s 3 million drug addicts (in the Philippines. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte said.
Duterte added: “If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…” He paused, and then pointed to himself.
In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was “unfortunate” that Duterte would invoke Hitler in justifying his war on drugs, but added that they were convinced that the Philippine President “will find a way to clarify his words.”
Meanwhile, Malacañang noted that Duterte’s upcoming visit to Israel would be a historic first for a Philippine President since diplomatic ties were established between the two countries. /kga