President Rodrigo Duterte confessed that he was moved to tears upon arriving in Israel, and later mingling with 400 wildly cheering OFWs from the cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other major cities of the country. “It’s the first time naluha ako. Bihira ako maluha. (This is the first time I wept. I very seldom cry) (I did) when my father and mother died. Maybe its because I’m here in the Holy Land. At ngayon nakasama ko na kayo. (And now I’m here with you).
Upon arriving at Ben Gurion airport on the evening of September 2, the President was driven straight to the Ramada Hotel to meet with OFWs who had been waiting for almost five and a half hours to meet “Digong” in person. The President was accompanied by his daughter, former Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Senator Dick Gordon, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and other dignitaries. The crowd cheered as the President introduced his daughter. “Pro-Israel talaga to,” (she’s really pro-Israel) Duterte observed of Sara who has Jewish blood through her German-Jewish mother Elizabeth Zimmerman, Duterte’s first wife.
Duterte Praises Israel’s Humane Treatment of OFW’s
The first Filipino Chief-of-State to visit Israel had positive things to say about the nation that employs over 30,000 Filipinos, most as “metapelets” or caregivers for the elderly and children. “Isa sa pinakamagandang lugar na pwedeng puntahan ang Israel. (One of the best places you can choose to go is Israel). You are treated as a human being here. Kung pwede lang, papuntahin ko lahat ng Pilipino dito. (If it were only possible, I would send all Filipinos to work here).” He compared OFW’s in Israel to those in other countries who are maltreated, get only 3 hours of sleep, are not fed well. “Hindi ko na sasabihin kung anong mga bansa iyon. (I won’t mention who those nations are anymore). “You are far luckier here…happy kayo. (you’re happy).” The president also said he would explore ways to further improve the earning capacity and working conditions of OFWs, not just in Israel but neighboring Jordan where there are 48,000 OFWs.
Isa sa pinakamagandang lugar na pwedeng puntahan ang Israel.
The President spoke for over an hour. He said he had no prepared speech and spoke extemporaneously on his government’s war on drugs, his fight against corruption, the credentials of his government officials, his relationships with U.S. President Donald Trump and former U.S. president Barack Obama, his religious faith. “Huwag kayo maniwala na Hindi ako naniniwala sa Dios (don’t believe the news that I don’t believe in God),” he declared. He said the media and politicians had muddled up the issue. He qualified that the god he didn’t believe in was a god that did harm and evil. “ But I believe in the supreme God that my father and mother passed on to me”.
Duterte Apologizes to Former President Obama for Cursing Him
“Trump is a good friend of mine. He speaks my language,” Duterte observed of current U.S. President Donald Trump. He explained that the reason he cursed former U.S. President Obama (telling him to go to hell) in the past was because the American leader criticized his human rights record in a public forum. In a verbal about-face, Duterte apologized to the former president for his harsh words. “I’m sorry, Obama, for uttering those (curses)…If it’s in your heart to forgive me, please forgive me. I have forgiven you.”
In the next 3 days, President Duterte is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum and the “Open Doors” monument in Rishon le Tziyon which was raised to honor Filipinos and former President Manuel Quezon for opening doors and hearts to 1,200 Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust from 1937 to 1941. He may also visit the Western Wall, remaining wall of the Holy Temple platform.
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