Nazi-Style Salute Lands Philippine Cultural Agency in Hot Water

It took down the images after a barrage of criticism.
Philippines, Hitler
One of the now-deleted photos featuring hosts of an arts and culture show in the Philippines. P

A Philippine government agency is on the defensive after it posted pictures online of representatives using gestures resembling the “Heil Hitler” salute from Nazi Germany. 

The photos, posted over the weekend, featured hosts of an online talk show that discusses cultural trends and features Filipino artists. But while standing in museums and galleries, the hosts made what many interpreted as the same greeting that has long been illegal in Germany following the downfall of the Third Reich but remains the salute of choice for Neo-Nazi groups.

Advertisement

After a barrage of criticism online, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), a government-funded agency mandated to promote Filipino arts and heritage, deleted the photos.

The NCCA did not respond to requests for comment from VICE World News. But in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, the agency clarified that it was a forward hand gesture.

“We are in no way encouraging or harboring Neo-Nazi beliefs / practices in the Commission. Following the comments on our earlier post, which we have already taken down, we will rethink of another (sic) hand gesture that better shows our intent of moving forward,” it said.

The Philippines does not have a history of anti-semitism. It was also hailed for its open door policy under President Manuel L. Quezon that saved 1,300 Jews from Nazi persecution in 1934 by allowing them to seek refuge and settle in the Southeast Asian country.

But it’s not the first time that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has found itself in hot water over flippant displays. In 2016, Duterte compared himself to Hitler when threatening to “slaughter” addicts as he ramped up a bloody war on drugs.

A Filipino law student whose Jewish relatives sought refuge in the Philippines in the 1930s expressed disappointment at the seeming lack of cultural sensitivity from the NCCA.

“For an institution that’s devoted to culture and history, it puts them in such a bad light,” said the student, who asked not to be named for fear of online attacks. “I don’t believe that they’re ignorant of history, but in this case their actions showed otherwise.”

The gaffe raised questions among critics about the qualifications of NCCA officials, who were mostly appointed by Duterte. In January 2020, the appointed film director was criticized over his lack of qualifications and close ties with the Marcos family, which controlled the Philippines for at least two decades.

It was also the second time in under a week that a hand gesture made headlines in the country.

Last week, Philippine lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to introduce a new national greeting that does not involve shaking hands in a move meant to discourage physical contact during the pandemic.