MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who once compared himself to Adolf Hitler, laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
Duterte, accompanied by his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio and some Cabinet members, was given a tour of the museum and signed its guestbook during his visit on Monday afternoon, September 3.
"Never again. May the world learn the lessons of this horrific and benighted period of human history," said Duterte at the memorial, reading out a message he left there which he and his daughter signed.
"And may the minds of all men and women learn to work together towards providing a safe haven for all who are being persecuted," he added.
Duterte faces two complaints at the International Criminal Court for alleged extrajudicial killings carried out by state forces in the name of his campaign against illegal drugs.
Earlier that day, an op-ed in the Israel broadsheet Haaretz branded Duterte a "Hitler admirer" whose red-carpet welcome by Israel marked a "diplomatic stain" on the country.
The sentiment arose from Duterte's remarks in September 2016 in which he likened his bloody campaign against illegal drugs to Hitler's mass murder of Jews.
The newspaper also called Duterte an unwanted guest.
"The president of the Philippines isn't a wanted guest here, and his visit is a shameful diplomatic stain," reads the opinion piece.
It criticized the Israel government for not thinking twice about welcoming Duterte with open arms, recalling other controversial leaders Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cozied up to.
"Yet this time, too, the government doesn't seem to have agonized over the question of whether Israel should go out of its way to host a man like Duterte with all the trappings of respect," reads the editorial.
Another news agency, The Times of Israel, declared in its op-ed that Duterte "has no place" in their country.
It provided a long rundown of some of the biggest controversies Duterte sparked: "the homophobic remarks, the despicable comments about rape, the contempt for religion, the contempt for human life, the emulation of Hitler-style murder of millions, the alleged actual practice of mass killing."
Even a lawmaker from Netanyahu's own party, Likud, admitted that Israelis may just have to stomach Duterte's presence in the Holy Land.
"It might be that we have to take a pill against nausea to receive him," said Knesset (Israel's legislature) Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter.
Before his visit to the Holocaust remembrance center, Duterte met with Netanyahu, remarking that he and the Israeli leader "share the same passion" for human beings, peace, and protecting their countries from "corrupt ideologies."
During Duterte's visit, the Philippines and Israel inked 3 agreements. The Philippines is also considering purchasing defense equipment from Israel. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.