Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who once likened his deadly drug war to Hitler’s World War II genocide, visited Israel on Monday and laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center.
“Never again. May the world learn the lessons of this horrific and benighted period of human history," Duterte wrote in the memorial’s guestbook.
"And may the minds of all men and women learn to work together towards providing a safe haven for all those who are being persecuted," he added.
In September 2016, Duterte drew the ire of Jews when he said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million addicts as he portrayed himself as a cousin of German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Though he later apologized for his “terribly wrong” statement, Duterte’s four-day trip to the Jewish state stoked controversy and was met by criticism from lawmakers and protesters.
Duterte is the first Filipino president to set foot in Israel since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1957.
The Israeli government invited the tough-talking president because the Philippines emerged as a new customer of Israel’s defense equipment in 2017.
In a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Duterte thanked Israel for its significant help in the Philippines’ battle in Marawi city against Daesh-linked rebels.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I can only thank you so much, especially the critical help that you have extended my country in time when we needed it most,” he said.
Duterte last Sunday told the Filipino community in Israel that the Jewish state provided “most of the intelligence gadgets” used to win the Marawi siege.
“We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings. But we also share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who have corrupt ideologies,” he said.
Duterte also praised Israel for its humane treatment of Filipino workers in the Jewish state.
Around 29,000 Filipinos work in Israel, 24,000 of which are caregivers which will benefit from the Memorandum of Agreement on the Temporary Employment of Home-Based Filipino Caregivers signed by the Philippines and Israel.
Duterte and Netanyahu also witnessed the signing of the two countries’ Memorandum of Understanding on Scientific Cooperation and Memorandum of Intent on the Collaboration on Promotion of Bilateral Direct Investment.