Duterte says sorry; ex-wife has Jewish roots

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2016 09:38 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday personally apologized to the Jewish community in a synagogue in Makati City.

The Jewish community is celebrating Rosh Hashanah, or the 2016 Jewish New Year.

Speaking at the Beit Yaacov Synagogue, Duterte said he never intended to offend the Jewish community.

"It's my character... it's what I am. I am I and you are you. And God created me to be in this way, I suppose. But one day, when I was coming home from Laos. I was a bit tired, we were on the plane. We arrived at 2 o'clock in the morning from the ASEAN Summit, and part of the briefing was really that I was pictured by the media guys, especially those who are against me on the political side, on the other side of the fence, that I was portrayed and pictured as Hitler," he said.

"And so, true to my character, I am one who would never say 'No, I am not that.' I would just ride, so okay, Hitler and I will murder this three million drug addicts. But in doing so, I mentioned the word Jewish, and that was what was terribly wrong, and for that, I apologize," Duterte added.

Duterte also said that he is not racist.

"I am not one of the racist members of this republic. Be it the Moro tribe, the Muslims, or any other region, you have never heard me talk about race and religion," he said.

Duterte earlier said he'd be happy to slaughter three million drug addicts. "Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. There are 3 million drug addicts. I'd be happy to slaughter them," he said in a press conference following his arrival from an official visit to Vietnam Friday.

His comments triggered shock and anger among Jewish groups in the United States, adding to pressure on the U.S. government to take a tougher line with the Philippines leader.

According to Duterte, what he said was a slip of the tongue because of how he was portrayed by other people.

"I already apologized. If you accept it, fine. If you don't, I'm really very sorry. It was not intended. It was just a mental slip of the numbers of three and Hitler. It had nothing to do with the memories of the Jews because in my country, we do not tinker memories of our ancestors. That's a no-no. It was just a play of my tongue," he said.

Duterte, likewise, said he will never insult Jews because his former wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman, has Jewish lineage.

"I really came here to say I'm sorry because I really respect the Jewish people. For the life of me, you have never heard me say a single word. As a matter of fact, my wife is a Zimmerman. She is a descendant of an American Jew. Zimmerman," he said.

"So why would I defile the memory of the Jews? What would I get if I insult the Jewish people?" he added.

Duterte issued a similar apology to the Jewish community on Sunday.