More controversial remarks by the president of the Philippines are raising eyebrows among Hawaii's local Filipino community and the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
In a speech in Davao City Friday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte compared himself to Adolph Hitler, saying he wanted to kill drug addicts the same way Hitler killed Jews during the Holocaust.
"Hitler massacred three million Jews," said Duterte. "Now there is three million, there's a three million drug addict. There are. I'd be happy to slaughter them."
"I am just shocked that any leader will make these statements, and particularly in respect to Hitler and the Holocaust," said local Filipino community leader Dr. Amy Agbayani.
She's not alone in her condemnation of President Duterte's remarks. Defense Secretary Ash Carter responded to the controversy from Ko Olina.
"Just speaking personally for myself I find those comments deeply troubling," he said.
Carter was on Oahu Friday for a meeting of Southeast Asian Nations. He said the U.S. and the Philippines remain close allies, but Duterte's words and actions deserve scrutiny.
The Philippine leader's crackdown on drugs, which has reportedly led to more than 3,000 executions, has certainly the attention of Hawaii's large Filipino population. The latest census counted nearly 200,000 in the islands, making them the second-largest ethnic group in the 50th state.
It's no coincidence that Oahu has direct flights to Manila.
"I think anyone, Filipino or non-Filipino, should be frightened if you visit a place where you could get shot," said Agbayani.
But Jerry Tomas recently returned to the U.S. and Hawaii after living in the Philippines. He said Duterte has brought more law and order to the country.
"If the Balikbayan, if the Filipinos, the American Filipinos, they return to the Philippines to visit, if they're good citizens then there's nothing to worry about. They should not be afraid. In fact now, the streets are so much safer now compared to before," he said.
Tomas added, "There's a problem with the way he speaks or the words that he uses, but then again on the other side, there's this sincerity and a seriousness in really going out to get those in the criminality, the criminals."
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