"He was just joking."
This was the response of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco when he was asked about President Rodrigo Duterte's remark that he'd love to emulate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
"Nangomedya ra man sya ato (He was just joking),"Evasco, one of Duterte's most trusted allies, said.
On Friday, the President said he'd be "happy to slaughter" millions of drug addicts in the Philippines just as Hitler did millions of Jews in Germany in the 1940s.
"If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have ..." he said, then pointing to himself.
Both Germany and Jewish groups have cried foul over the comment, which the Palace said "oblique deflection" of the way the President has been pictured as a mass murderer.
But Evasco, who was attending the grand launching of Kilusang Pagbabago, said Duterte's remark was just said in jest.
Kilusang Pagbabago is a nationwide initiative responding to the call of the administration for participatory governance. It has five programs: program against crimes, illegal drugs and corruption, program on intensifying social services, program on raising quality of life and living standards, program on peace and unity and program on federalism.
Evasco also said that Duterte is serious about his campaign against illegal drugs and does not want rich countries to meddle.
He added that anyone is free to express how they feel about the extrajudicial killings but that he thinks any protests against it are just being manipulated by Duterte's detractors.