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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Philippines president confesses to extra-judicial killings

In a rambling speech Rodrigo Duterte claims: "My only sin is the extrajudicial killings."

Rodrigo Duterte once said he would kill his own son if he were a drug dealer (EPA)
Rodrigo Duterte once said he would kill his own son if he were a drug dealer (EPA)

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has conceded for the first time extra-judicial killings happened under his authority as part of a crackdown on drug dealers.

In response, opposition figures and activists called for legal action against the firebrand president, who is subject to two complaints at the International Criminal Court. Nearly 5,000 people have been killed by the police, according to official records, since Mr Duterte took power in July 2016, although rights groups claim the figure is much higher.

"What is my sin? Did I steal, even one peso? Did I prosecute somebody whom I jailed,” he told government officials during an often incoherent speech on Thursday. "My only sin is the extrajudicial killings."

"This apparent admission by the president himself highlights the urgent need for international investigations," Minar Pimple, a senior director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

A spokesman for Mr Duterte later told local radio the president was “not serious” and cited his “playful” nature. This did not, however, convince observers.

In March, a report submitted to the ICC accused Mr Duterte of being “directly responsible for mass murder” over three decades, which began when he became mayor of Davao city. The president has taken a hard-stance against drug dealers and once claimed if his son were involved in the narcotics trade, he would kill him.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called the admission an “extraordinary statement.”

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: “This admission should erase any doubt about the culpability of the president.”

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In the bizarre, rambling speech, littered with swear words, Mr Duterte also said he would happily step down if citizens were unhappy with his leadership.

“For all of the Filipinos who have any complaints against us. At any time of the day or night they can knock on the door and tell the guard. I will entertain you,” he said.

“I already offered to resign before the armed forces. All you need to do is stand up and I’m ready to go.”