Words have consequences

posted September 05, 2018 at 12:50 am
For better or for worse, we have learned to take the outrageous utterances of President Rodrigo Duterte with a lot more than the proverbial grain of salt.

When he jokes about rape, we shake our heads but shrug it off, because the Palace assures us that Mr. Duterte is not a misogynist and has the utmost respect for women.

When he curses out world leaders for expressing concern about his bloody war on drugs, we are no longer surprised, telling ourselves that is simply his way and he will never change.

He even survived religious anger at his statement that God is stupid by offering a half-baked apology.

But Mr. Duterte should know by now that tolerance at home does not shield him from the consequences of his words when he is abroad.

On a state visit to Israel, Mr. Duterte has been pointedly reminded of an incredibly insensitive remark he made in 2016 comparing himself with Adolf Hitler. At the time, he compared his war on drugs to Hitler’s genocide of six million Jews. “Hitler massacred three-million Jews… there’s three-million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

Duterte apologized for his remarks at the time, saying they were aimed at critics who compared him to Hitler—but the damage had already been done.

This week, Israeli human rights activists protested his visit while the newspaper Haaretz branded him “a Hitler admirer” in its editorial.

“Under the shadow of Duterte’s visit, Israel once again proves it’s willing to overlook leaders’ human rights violations for the sake of opportunities for arms deals and defense contracts,” the editorial read.

Urging Israeli President Reuven Rivlin not to meet a “mass murderer” like Mr. Dutere, human rights advocate Eitay Mack said, “Certainly 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.”

Thankfully, Mr. Duterte was more subdued in his remarks during a visit to Israel’s national Holocaust memorial Monday, saying the horror should never be repeated and that despots have no place in the modern world.

“I could not imagine a country obeying an insane leader, and I could not ever fathom the spectacle of the human being going into a killing spree, murdering old men, women and children. I hope this will not happen again,” he said.

“There is always a lesson to learn: That despots and leaders who show insanity, they should be disposed of at the first instance,” he said.

The words were appropriate, but would have been more credible coming from a leader who exercises greater care in what he says, whether at home or abroad.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , words , Reuven Rivlin , Israel , Eitay Mack , Haaretz
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