Presidential aides have offered a range of explanations for President Duterte’s apparent admission of his “sin” of extra-judicial killings.
It was also stressed that his words were not incriminating, as he had not been speaking under oath.
Meanwhile, national police chief Oscar Albayalde said the words were simply said “out of frustration”.
The words that sparked the row came as the president sought to defend himself against attacks by opposition Liberal Party president, Senator Francis Pangilinan.
He said: “Now, nobody admits. This pontifical Pangilinan, he speaks as if he has no sin. He is even the president of Liberal. Look, he will not even win. Me, I will talk to – this is political exercise now.
“What are your sins? Me? I told the military, what is my sin? Did I steal even one peso? Prove it. Did I prosecute somebody whom I sent to jail? My only sin is the extrajudicial killings.”
Clarifying that the words were not said under oath, and therefore not self-incriminating, Roque added that the president was merely emphasising that he had never been involved in corruption.
He said: “He said that because they [critics] kept on saying that he is doing it [extra-judicial killings]. But it’s also he was emphasising that he never steals but I don’t think its context was literal.
“That’s the President po being himself, being playful, being… highlighting the point that he is not corrupt.”
Meanwhile, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the President was just explaining that the only issue his critics could use against him was extra-judicial killings.
He said: “That’s why if he said my only sin is extrajudicial killings, the only issue against him as president is extrajudicial killings. That’s the meaning of it.”
He also said that because Duterte was the first president from Mindanao, he was still having difficulty expressing himself correctly in Tagalog.
“You know, the president is Bisaya),” he said.
Also today, lawyer Jude Sabio has said that he will report the words to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where a preliminary probe has already been launched against the president.
He said: “I will send a formal communication to the ICC even though I am aware that the ICC has instant access to Duterte’s public statement through the media and electronic means.”