Philippines' Duterte visits Israel with eyes on arms deal

Adjust Comment Print

Duterte is scheduled to visit a monument commemorating the Philippines' rescue of Jews during the Holocaust and meet two survivors rescued by the country, the Foreign Ministry said.

In 2017, the Philippines bought radar and anti-tank systems from Israel worth some $21 million.

Duterte will have his official visit first to Israel from September 2 to 5, making him the first Filipino leader to travel to Israel since the two countries established ties in 1957, upon invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Duterte also interjected a personal note into the visit, introducing his daughter to Netanyahu, and noting that she was a descendant of Jews who fled Nazi Germany and found refuge in his country. He's also welcomed Hungary's Viktor Orban, Poland's Andrzej Duda and, most notably, U.S. President Donald Trump. Duterte apologized for his remarks through his then-spokesman Ernesto Abella, who maintained that the President was willing to kill as many as three-million "criminals".

The Philippine president praised Israel's prime minister for his "critical help" in ending a five-month siege by rebels in a southern city as they held talks in Jerusalem amid criticism of the Filipino leader's human rights record.

In the two years since Duterte took office, more than 4,200 suspected drug dealers have been killed by police while thousands more were gunned down "vigilante-style" by unknown assailants, according to Reuters.

The Prime Minister noted that "there has been a remarkable phenomenon in Israel where thousands and thousands of families have taken heart from the support given by Filipino care workers to the elderly".

The move of Duterte, who once compared himself to Hitler, was seen as a dramatic turnaround for Duterte.

After their brief remarks, Israeli and Filipino ministers signed a series of bilateral agreements, including one geared at improving the conditions of Filipino caregivers working in Israel.

"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.

Netanyahu is always on the lookout for allies who will support Israel in worldwide forums, where the country often faces criticism over its occupation of Palestinian territory.

"Hitler massacred three million Jews". But so far deals with Israel have gone smoothly.

"The human rights critics and PRRD's (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) detractors are nitpicking again and making a fuss about a statement about many lovely women being raped in Davao making it a basis for accusing him of misogyny", Panelo said in a statement. "I have forgiven them also".

Duterte's brutal crackdown on the Philippine drug trade has prompted worldwide outcry over extrajudicial slayings. He said the Philippines took in Jewish refugees after World War II and was the only Asian nation to vote for Israel's establishment.

"[The visit] is for President Duterte to look for an alternative market for... weapons for our armed forces as well as for the police", Henelito Sevilla, an worldwide relations expert at the University of the Philippines, told AFP.

Duterte thanked Israel for hosting some 28,000 Filipino workers and for assisting his country in times of need.