In Israel visit, Philippines' Duterte dogged by past rhetoric

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He has said in the past that he sees Israel as an alternative supplier of weapons after the USA and other countries refused to sell him arms over human rights violations.

Right after his meeting with Netanyahu, Duterte laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial.

Duterte also wants to improve security cooperation with Israel, which has sold the Philippines three radar systems and 100 armoured vehicles, and which Manila is now eyeing for an aircraft deal.

In 1947, the Philippines, under the administration of President Manuel Roxas, cast the tie-breaker vote at the United Nations to separate Israel from Palestine. "In a written appeal, an Israeli lawyer, Eitay Mack, said: "[It] is most inappropriate for a mass murderer who supports rape, shooting in the genitalia of women and bombing schools, to meet the Israeli president". He later apologized for his remarks.

It can be recalled that in 2016, Duterte has described his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust and said he would be "happy to slaughter" three million addicts. Under the shadow of Duterte's visit, Israel must disclose the nature and scope of its arms trade with countries accused of human rights violations.

But Duterte's Hitler remarks and other controversial actions, including his internationally condemned drug crackdown that has killed thousands, had led to increased attention.

And it was the last that may provide insight into some of the prime minister's insistence that Duterte not be ignored.

"Critics compare me to Hitler's cousin", he said.

"We also share the same passion of not allowing a family to be destroyed by those who [have] corrupt ideologies", Duterte added in what appeared to be a reference to his fight against drug criminality.

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Historically, the two countries have a special bond.

Nathaniel Imperial, Ambassador of the Philippines to the State of Israel, said the visit of Duterte "is extremely important". "I will ask them to continue to be our partners for growth, progress and change", he said.

"It would be appropriate also to say at this time to Mr. Obama that you are now a civilian and I am sorry for uttering those words", Duterte said during a speech given in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Ernesto Abella, an official with the Foreign Ministry in Manila and a former Duterte spokesman, said the issue of moving the Philippine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the United States did in May, had not been discussed.

Information gathered by i24NEWS in July showed that Israel Weapons Industries (IWI) has made several arms to sales to frontline forces in Duterte's deadly crackdown on illicit drugs.

Netanyahu welcomed Duterte by recalling that the country opened its doors to some 1,300 refugees from Germany and Austria during the Holocaust; that it was the only Asian country to vote for the Partition Plan in 1947; and that tens of thousands of Filipinos are giving care to elderly Israelis across the country.

Israeli human rights activists urged President Reuven Rivlin to call off his planned meeting with Duterte on Tuesday and have vowed to protest if it takes place.

During the official visits, the President is also scheduled to meet the Filipino communities in Israel and Jordan.

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