MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited a synagogue in the Manila metropolis Tuesday to personally apologize to the Jewish community for making a "terribly wrong" comparison between his anti-drug campaign and Hitler and the Holocaust in a recent speech.
Duterte had apologized to the Jewish world in a speech Sunday but he visited the Beit Yaacov synagogue in Makati city to press his expression of regret and assure that he was not racist, adding that his wife, now separated from him, has Jewish ties.
"I would like to apologize and it comes from the heart," Duterte told members of the Jewish Association of the Philippines.
Deriding critics who had compared him to Hitler, Duterte acknowledged he erred in referencing what happened to Jewish people under the Nazi leader.
"I mentioned the word Jewish and that was what was terribly wrong and for that I apologize," Duterte said, drawing an applause. "But I'm not one of the racist members of this republic."
In his original remarks on Friday, Duterte raised the rhetoric over his anti-drug campaign to a new level by comparing it to Hitler and the Holocaust and saying he would be "happy to slaughter" an estimated 3 million Filipino addicts.
In that speech, the brash president said without elaborating that he has been "portrayed or pictured to be a cousin of Hitler" by his critics.
Moments later, he said, "Hitler massacred 3 million Jews ... there's 3 million drug addicts. There are. I'd be happy to slaughter them."
His remarks drew shock and outrage across the world. In his apology Monday, he said he had never intended to derogate the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered under Hitler before and during World War II.
Duterte recalled his modest political roots in his speech at the synagogue and what he said was his sincere desire to rid his country of corruption and crime, especially illegal drugs. He sought understanding for his tough image.
"You know it's my character ... I am I and you are you," he said. "God created me to be in this way."