Duterte begs Obama absolution over ′son of a whore′ dig | News | DW | 03.09.2018
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Duterte begs Obama absolution over 'son of a whore' dig

Rodrigo Duterte is the first Philippine president to visit Israel, apparently seeking supplies of military hardware to reduce reliance on the US. He kicked his trip off with a remarkable apology to Barack Obama.

As he seeks to strengthen relations with Israel, the president of the Philippines heralded his arrival in Jerusalem on Sunday with an apology to a former US president.

As Rodrigo Duterte addressed some of the 28,000-strong Filipino community in Israel, he apologized for calling former US President Barack Obama a "son of a whore" in 2016. Duterte has used the same epithet for Pope Francis and a former US ambassador to Manila.

"It would be appropriate also to say at this time to Mr. Obama that you are now a civilian andI am sorry for uttering those words," Duterte said. "If it is (in) your heart to forgive, you forgive. I have forgiven you, just like my girlfriends when I was still a bachelor... I have forgiven them also," he said later in his speech. 

Before he left Manila for his Middle East trip, Duterte had again courted controversy by commenting on the high number of rape cases in his hometown: "They say there are many rape cases in Davao," Duterte said. "For as long as there are many beautiful women, there will be many rape cases, too." His spokesman later said the comments were intended to be a joke.

An Israeli Air Force Lockheed Martin F-35 jet with Israeli technology built in

An Israeli Air Force Lockheed Martin F-35 jet with Israeli technology built in

Seeking arms

The aim of the visit to Israel is apparently a search for more weaponry, and perhaps aircraft.

The dip in relations between the Philippines and its long-term ally the US coincided with the purchase from Israel of radar systems, armored vehicles and Galil assault rifles and pistols for the southeast Asian archipelago's 120,000-strong police force.

Duterte canceled an order for rifles from the US two years ago, after moves in Congress to block the sales over concerns about how the guns would be used. Duterte also said he was against buying US F-16 fighter jets as they would be "utterly useless" in the fight against insurgents, for which lighter combat aircraft were needed. 

Israeli defense ministry data shows nearly 60 percent of the country's military hardware exports go to the Asia-Pacific region.

Filipino police patrol a checkpoint in Marawi city

Filipino police patrol a checkpoint in Marawi city

An unwelcome guest?

Ahead of his arrival in Jerusalem there were some concerns expressed about giving a red-carpet welcome to Duterte, who last year compared himself to Hitler in his approach to confronting drug dealers in the Philippines.

In 2017, Duterte said: "Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are three million drug addicts [in the Philippines]. I'd be happy to slaughter them."

Rights groups in Israel have expressed concern about the planned meeting between Duterte and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, which they claim risks bringing the presidency into disrepute.

This is not just because of the Filipino leader's comments on Hitler and rape but because of his anti-drug security operations which have led to more than 4,500 deaths since June 2016, according to police figures. There have been concerns about arbitrary killings and a lack of judicial process.

Following meetings with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Netanyahu has raised concerns within Jewish communities that he is pursuing political links with leaders expressing extremist, right wing and anti-semitic doctrines.

Hungary and the Philippines abstained in the UN vote last December criticizing the US decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

On to Jordan

The Philippines played a key role in the creation of the state of Israel when in 1947, then President Manuel Roxas voted in favor of the Jewish state's recognition at the United Nations.

While in Israel, Duterte will be visiting the Open Doors Monument which commemorates the Philippines' role during the Holocaust. The country took in 1,300 European Jews seeking refuge from Nazi persecution.

On Monday he was due to tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Duterte and his entourage of business and security personnel will be in Israel until Wednesday before moving on to visit Jordan where there is a 48,000-strong Filipino community, many of whom are domestic workers.

The Filipino president is expected to meet with King Abdullah.

jm/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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