President Rodrigo Duterte has turned emotional amid loud chanting from around 1,400 Filipinos who welcomed him as the first Philippine leader to visit Israel since the two countries established ties in 1957.
“Alam mo bihirang-bihira ako umiiyak. Lalo na nu’ng (You know, I rarely cry. Especially when) — I could remember maybe the times that I cried, when my father and mother died. But rare, very rare,” Duterte said after wiping his tears in front of overjoyed Filipinos on Sunday night at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem.
“Ito lang ang bisita ko na (This is my only visit that) maybe I will do it again, I really do not know. But this is the first time napaluha ako na nandito ako sa aking mga kababayan Pilipino (But this is the first time I turned emotional that I’m here in front of my countrymen),” he added.
Duterte said his tears could also be “because nandito rin ako sa Holy Land (because I’m here also in Holy Land)”.
Duterte’s meeting with the Filipino community has kicked off his four-day visit in Israel upon the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In front of the Filipino community, Duterte highlighted some of his accomplishments particularly his relentless fight against illegal drugs and criminality.
“They (drug traders) transform a Filipino who is of sound mind to someone who is inutile for the rest of his life. Gawin mo silang (You made them) slaves to a chemical called shabu. Now if you are the president of a country and you are being treated with a s*** like that, what you will do? Eh ‘di I will kill you,” Duterte said.
“Napapaiyak talaga ako kanina (I felt I really want to cry a while ago), it’s not because of one person. Makita ko kayo (When I saw you) and I need to protect everybody. You know maski na papaano (at least) by whatever measure if you are out of your country, it is really a very lonely job,” he added.
Duterte also informed the Filipino community about his efforts to reach out to enemies of the state, particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“I will talk to the enemies of the state. We have made progress with the MILF and for as long as they want peace, I want peace and it would be on equal terms. It will be a republic, equality with work and the things that all a democracy wants,” he assured.
He took the opportunity to express his gratitude to Israel for inviting him and for hosting around 29,000 Filipinos, many of them working as caregivers.
“I would like to say thank you for hosting so many of my countrymen in the State of Israel and that I have to hear any problem that may come from any Filipino here,” Duterte said.
In his upcoming dialogue with the Israeli government officials, Duterte said he intends to discuss ways on how to better manage the huge number of Filipinos in Israel.
“One of the best places that we have to… and I don’t mind, isa sa pinakamagandang lugar na pwede mo talagang mapuntahan (one of the best places where you can go) and you are treated as a human being,” Duterte said.
“If it (is) not really a wrong proposal, pardon me, but if Israel would want, ipapadala ko ng lahat ng Pilipino dito kasi mas maganda ang buhay dito (I will send all Filipinos here because of better life here),” he added.
In his departure speech in Manila on Sunday, Duterte said he looks forward to building a “robust relationship” with Israel that will push broader cooperation on a broader range of mutually important areas such as defense and security, law enforcement, economic development, labor, trade and investments.
From Israel, Duterte will fly to Jordan to another official visit from Sept. 5 to 8 upon the invitation of His Majesty King Abdullah II.
Duterte will also become the first Philippine president to visit Jordan, having a promising agenda that seeks to renew relations “with a country and people which have the common aspirations”.