Palace clarifies Duterte's Hitler remark after comment leaves UN, human rights groups aghast

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte was not likening himself to Adolf Hitler. The President was just responding to critics who compared him to the Nazi leader because of the thousands of alleged drug suspects killed under his watch. This is how Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella clarified Duterte's latest round of controversial remarks — now gaining worldwide attention again.

Malacañang issued a clarification on Saturday following negative reactions from the international community and several news reports saying the President likened himself to the Nazi leader.

Abella said the President meant no harm, as he was just addressing the negative comparison people have made between him and Hitler.

"The President's reference to the slaughter was an oblique deflection of the way he has been pictured as a mass murderer, a Hitler, a label he rejects," he said in a statement posted on the Presidential Communications Operations Office Facebook page.

"We do not wish to diminish the profound loss of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust — that deep midnight of their story as a people," Abella added.

History counts the cost of Hitler's purges against "undesirables" at six million, the vast majority of whom were Jews.

Related: Duterte decries Hitler comparison, but 'would be happy to slaughter drug addicts'

Abella said Duterte drew an "oblique conclusion, that while the Holocaust was an attempt to exterminate future generations of Jews, the so-called "extra-judicial killings", wrongly attributed to him, would save the next generation of Filipinos from this problem.

"Hitler murdered 3 million innocent civilians whereas Duterte was referencing to his 'willingness to kill' 3 million criminal drug dealers — to save the future of the next generation and the country," Abella noted. "Those are two entirely different things."

Duterte said on Friday, it was unfair for critics to portray him asa "cousin of Hitler" without even investigation. But Duterte later on embraced the comparison by saying if Hitler massacred millions of Jews, he'd be more than happy to slaughter the estimated three million drug addicts in the Philippines — if it means destroying the country's drug problem.

UN, human rights groups react

Prior to Malacanang's clarification, United Nations and United States officials, plus some international human rights groups, expressed concern about the tough-talking President's comments.

UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng was alarmed.

He said in a statement that the comments were "deeply disrespectful of the right to life of all human beings."

He added that such comments undermine the efforts of the international community to develop strategies to prevent the recurrence of those cruel and criminal acts.

Dieng also called on Duterte to be mindful of using words that could worsen discrimination and hostility.

Pentagon Chief Ash Carter personally found Duterte's comment "deeply troubling."

He said Duterte's Hitler remark was not discussed in his meeting with defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He added the comment will not affect the relationship between the Philippines and the U.S.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner echoed Carter's statement, "We find them troubling."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Digital Terrorism and Hate project, called them "outrageous."

"Duterte owes the victims (of the Holocaust) an apology for his disgusting rhetoric," Cooper said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a global human rights organization that promotes human rights and dignity and teaches lessons of the Holocaust.

"The comparison of drug users and dealers to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust is inappropriate and deeply offensive," said the Anti-Defamation League.

Human rights group Amnesty International said President Duterte has "sunk to new depths with his latest outburst."

"The words President Duterte used are not just extremely distasteful, they are extremely dangerous. They serve no discernible purpose other than to put more lives at risk," Josef Benedict, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific said in a statement.

The Human Rights Watch Asia said Duterte's comments referencing Hitler and the Holocaust are "on their face obscene."