A group of human rights activists asked President Reuven Rivlin not to meet with controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is planning a visit to Israel in September.
Since Duterte entered office two years ago, thousands of citizens in his country have been killed by the police ostensibly as part of an operation to root out illegal drug use.
The group, headed by human rights attorney Eitay Mack, wrote Rivlin on Sunday that they believe it to be “improper for Israel to be Duterte’s first stop among Western countries. 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."
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The idea of the visit, which was made public by Haaretz at the time, began to germinate about a year ago. A senior official in the Foreign Ministry told Haaretz that Duterte said he wanted to visit Jerusalem and was given the nod to do so in principle. During Duterte’s term, ties with the Philippines have grown closer as Manila sided with Israel on various issues and did not vote against Israel in international forums. Israel has also sold the Philippines no small quantity of weapons over the years.
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The letter to the president enumerated several of Duterte’s statements and actions, annotated with newspaper links, during his election campaign and since taking office. These include an anti-drug operation called “knock and plead,” in which 4,000 people have been killed so far.
The letter also mentions one of the best-known cases in Duterte’s “war against drugs” in which, in October 2016, the Filipino police abducted a South Korean businessman, murdered him, burned his body and still demanded a ransom from the man’s family for his release.
“Unfortunately, as we know, Duterte’s move to resolve political and social problems and enact social engineering by quick mass killings, is not the first such case in history. The fact that the international community is silent or only weakly denounces these killings, is also not new,” the letter states.
“In light of the serious crimes for which Duterte is responsible, we believe that his visit to the presidential residency will disgrace President Rivlin and the institution of the presidency, and that the visit should not take place, in spite of the fact that it is intended to promote arms deals and UN votes [in Israel’s favor],” the letter also states.
Duterte has made controversial statements on numerous occasions, once even comparing himself to Hitler: “Hitler massacred three million Jews... Now there is three million, there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them."
He also told his soldiers jokingly that if any of them raped a woman he would take personal responsibility; he threatened to throw senior government officials out of a helicopter and to bomb schools in his country, claiming that the schoolchildren are being taught to be communist rebels.