In an interview with BBC on Wednesday (14 Dec), President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he had shot dead three men when he was mayor of the southern city of Davao. “I killed about three of them,” he said.
“I don’t know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened, I said I cannot lie about it.”
Mr Duterte’s statement came after his comments to a group of business leaders. In answers to questions from BBC, he outlined how, as city mayor in 1988, he and two policemen had shot dead three men who had collected a ransom payment for a kidnapped local woman.
“Maybe my bullets killed them, maybe not, but after the ‘boom boom’ they were all dead,” he said, adding the suspects had aimed a carbine rifle at him and the policemen.
“I had an M-16 (assault rifle), carried one because Davao was then a wild country, I took the bull by the horns.”
A BBC reporter asked the President, “Do you think that makes you fit for the job of president?”
Mr Duterte answered confidently, “Yes, of course. Given the problems of my country, yes! I have four million drug addicts in my country. So…that’s not a joke, for as long as there are drug pushers in the streets in my country, for as long as there are drug lords, this campaign will go on, until the last day if my term. Until all of them killed!”
A challenging question followed, asking that while the president himself is also highly dependent on drug, would he consider himself a drug addict? Duterte has admitted to taking prescription medication.
To this question he just answered, “Yes, but I’m not an addict; only when it is prescribed. Addiction is only with regularity, my friend.”
“When you take it when there’s a monkey on your back, that’s addiction,” he said.
Bloomberg reported President Duterte referred to the BBC interview in his meeting with Filipinos in Singapore, “To spare you embarrassment about the crawlers on television that have been running on CNN and even the BBC since yesterday that says Duterte admits killing or shooting the criminals; they were not mistaken,” he said.
Around 6500 people cheered after Mr Duterte used his trademark strong language to promise his drug war would continue, “Sons of whores, I will really kill these idiots,” he said.
“My campaign on drugs will not end, until the end of my term six years from now when every drug pusher is (killed),” he said, making a throat-cutting gesture.
The Philippine President had won presidential elections easily in May on a promise to erase illegal drugs in society even by killing people. Since he took office late last June, more than 5000 people have been killed, causing fears of mass extrajudicial killings and a breakdown in the rule of law. The United Nations and the US have made opposing statements and Human Rights Organisations have condemned the introduced policy.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said on Wednesday that Mr Duterte did not violate any law, and either was making up the claims or had killed people only in self-defence.
“The president always uses hyperbole, is always exaggerated to put his message across,” Mr Aguirre said, “If the suspect fought back, he must have been forced to kill him.”
Surveys show many Filipinos endorse Duterte’s campaign, and some of those who turned up to listen to him in Singapore expressed sentiments felt by compatriots back home.
Singapore’s leaders also gave Mr Duterte a warm welcome during the two-day state visit, between 15-16 December.