The messenger or the message

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

Fresh from his two-day working visit to Vietnam, President Duterte wasted no time in once again being controversial, whether by design or consequence. In an extemporaneous speech in Davao where he once again touched on his campaign against illegal drugs, he compared himself to one of history's most detested despots, Adolf Hitler. "If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have," pausing then pointing to himself. "There are three million drug addicts. I'd be happy to slaughter them." These quotes are taken directly from the various media sites that have picked up on the story.

Reaction was fast and furious. From countries like Israel and Germany, to groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, World Jewish Congress and Amnesty International, along with the now usual critics of Duterte such as the US, the UN, and the Commission on Human Rights.

Adjectives like "unfortunate, revolting, deeply troubling, unacceptable" have all been said in reaction to Duterte's analogy.

Why he would even compare himself to Hitler, a known mass murderer, is beyond everyone. The use of the word "slaughter," usually reserved for animals, shows the way he would want to deal with addicts. Merriam-Webster defines it as a "violent killing of a large number of people." Synonyms include massacre and carnage. It also denotes the helplessness of the ones being killed. We have heard Duterte state that drug addicts are "no longer viable as human beings."

As expected, the President's men have come to his defense, using words such as "oblique deflection" and "malicious spin," which are even bigger words than those used by Duterte himself. One supporter again used the "he was only joking" defense, along with the "out of context" retort.

I am sort of reminded of Saddam Hussein's information minister during the Iraqi war of 2003. I believe the international press called him "Comical Ali," because of his baseless but hilarious statements. But if so many are in agreement as to what Duterte actually said and meant, then the problem lies with either the messenger or the message itself.

Duterte is known to toss out prepared speeches and goes on to speak off the top of his head. I can imagine his allies preparing for the worst each and every time, already drafting explanations and the like in case he does utter controversial, and in this case, outrageous statements.

But the fact remains that even with all the defensive and explanatory posturing being made by the administration, Duterte's statements have resonated in a bad way with many. How this translates to the country's relation with others again remains to be seen.

Just like that, Germany and Israel are in the picture as well. As if we have the luxury of alienating ourselves from most of the world, while working to endear us to both China and Russia, who have not reacted to Duterte's Hitler analogy.

More than twenty million Russians lost their lives in World War II, mostly at the hands of Hitler's forces. Just saying.


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