President Duterte has claimed that he personally killed suspected criminals when he was mayor of Davao.
Duterte made the comments as he discussed his campaign to stamp out drug use, which has seen police and unidentified gunmen kill thousands of people since he became president on June 30.
The president said he led similar efforts when he was mayor of Davao, which he governed for most of the previous 20 years.
“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show the guys (police) that if I can do it why can’t you,” Duterte said in a speech at the Malacañang palace on Monday.
“And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
However, in another speech, just hours previously on Monday, the president said he took no satisfaction in the deaths of his countrymen. “I am not a killer. I do not relish or enjoy (seeing) a Filipino sprawled there with all the blood.”
Following his remarks, Senator Richard Gordon, who is part of the majority bloc in the senate, said the president was risking impeachment with his words. Reiterating an earlier warning, he said: “Loose lips sink ships.”
However, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has defended the president, saying his words were just “an exaggeration” intended to send a “chilling warning” to lawbreakers.
The remarks have drawn strong condemnation from Amnesty International. Rafendi Djamin, director for South East Asia and the Pacific, said: “Statements like these continue to give everybody, including the police in the Philippines a license to kill in the knowledge that they are protected by the president.”
Duterte recently appeared to threaten human rights activists should they stand in the way of his anti-drugs crusade. He said: “Fine, let’s stop and let the number of drug personalities increase. When harvest time comes and there are many of them, I will include you — because you made the problem bigger.”
I am scared of firing a gun
In a speech to expatriate Filipinos during a state visit to Cambodia on Tuesday, Duterte again said, seemingly in jest, that as mayor of Davao he would go on missions with police and shoot blindly at suspects.
“I would sometimes go along with them. If you say I shot someone, maybe I did. I was closing my eyes because I am scared of firing a gun,” he said.
In the past, Duterte has variously denied and acknowledged his involvement in the death squads. However, his pledge to roll-out his Davao law-and-order policies across the nation proved popular with electors.
The fish will grow fat
He pledged that 100,000 people would die in the crackdown and that so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.
Since he took office, police have reported killing more than two thousand suspects in anti-drug operations. More than three thousand others have been killed in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures.
Duterte has insisted that police are only killing in self-defence and that gangsters are responsible for murdering the other victims.
But he has also said he will not allow any police officer to be imprisoned if they are found guilty of murder in relation his policies.
Fed to a crocodile
Polls continue to indicate that the majority of Filipinos continue to support the president’s tough stance, accepting his argument that drastic action is required to stop the Philippines becoming a narco-state.
In October, Duterte compared himself to Adolf Hitler and said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million addicts. He later apologised for the reference to Hitler, but still said he was “emphatic” about wanting to kill the millions of addicts.
In September, a self-confessed Davao death squad member told a Senate hearing into the drug war that then-mayor Duterte personally gunned down a justice department agent and ordered the murders of opponents.
The confessed hitman, Edgar Matobato, said one of the victims was fed to a crocodile.
On Friday, Matobato filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against the president and 27 others over alleged involvement in the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).
Also charged were his son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa and 25 others.