Manila – Adding to his long record of controversial statements, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has said he personally killed suspected criminals when he was mayor of a southern city to set an example for police.
Duterte made the comments in a speech he delivered late on Monday to businessmen at the presidential palace as he discussed his campaign to eradicate illegal drugs.
Since his election in June 30, more than 5,000 have been killed in his war on drugs.
According to AFP, Duterte said he led similar efforts when he was mayor of Davao, the major southern city that he ruled for most of the previous 20 years.
“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the police that if I can do it why can’t you,” Duterte said.
The 71-year-old former mayor, is said to be responsible for the death of over 1,000 persons, according to activists.
Duterte previously has both denied and acknowledged his involvement in the Davao death squads.
He became a president after a campaign which focused on security, promising to eradicate crime within months of his election.
Since taking his anti-crime campaign to the nation level, he has been criticized by the United States and United Nations, whose concerns have drawn only angry rebukes.
In October, Duterte compared his war on drugs with the Jewish genocide, saying he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts.
He later apologized for the genocide reference but said he was ’emphatic’ on wanting to kill the millions of addicts.
In August, U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said Washington is “deeply concerned” over Duterte’s “extrajudicial killings” and urged his government to ensure that law enforcement officers comply with the country’s “human rights obligation.”
“The United States believes in the rule of law, due process, and respect for universal human rights, and that these principles promote long-term security,” Toner said.
“We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts comply with its human rights obligations,” he added.
After meeting with Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russell told the press in Manila that his country supports the Philippines government’s “effort against the scourge of drugs.”
Yet, Russell indicated that America is still concerned over the number of deaths this effort has caused, calling it “bad for business” and “not a positive trend.”
During his visit to China, Duterte announced the Philippine’s “separation from the United States,” saying it was “time to say goodbye” to America and instead “chart a new course” in his country’s relations with its historic rival, China.
“I pointed out to Secretary Yasay that the succession of controversial statements and comments, and the climate of uncertainty about the Philipppines’ intentions, have created consternation in a number of countries, not only in mine,” Russel told reporters.
The Assistant Secretary added that the U.S. government welcomes Duterte’s push for improvement in Manila’s relations with Beijing, yet this should not be done at the expense of Manila’s alliance with Washington.