President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted for the first time to authorising extrajudicial killings as part of his war on drugs in the Philippines.
Mr Duterte made the admission during a speech at the presidential palace on Thursday, where he directly challenged anyone who criticised how he ran the country. “I told the military, what is my fault? Did I steal even one peso?” said Mr Duterte. “My only sin is the extrajudicial killings.”
Mr Duterte has previously addressed the existence of extra-judicial killings but has always denied they were state-sponsored. This direct acknowledgment of his role in the deaths could give further weight to the ongoing preliminary investigation by the international criminal court (ICC) into the thousands of extrajudicial killings carried out as part of Mr Duterte’s “war on drugs”.
In March, the ICC confirmed it was investigating allegations Mr Duterte had committed crimes against humanity in his brutal anti-drugs crusade, both as mayor of Davao and then as the president over the past two years. In response, the president announced he was withdrawing the Philippines from the Rome Statute, which gives the ICC jurisdiction to investigate the country.
According to official statistics, 4,500 people, mostly small-time drug dealers and addicts, have been killed by the police in what have been described as “legitimate” anti-drug operations since Mr Duterte became president. However, the 77-page report submitted to the ICC alleged the death toll was more than 8,000, with some rights groups estimating it is as high as 12,000.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: "This admission should erase any doubt about the culpability of the president."
The president’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said on Friday morning that Duterte’s comments had been “playful” and should “not be taken literally”.
Mr Duterte also used the speech to emphasise he had no intention of ending his war on drugs any time soon. “It will not end,” he said. “As I have said, I will put on the table my life, the presidency. I can lose it any time. My honour.”–The Guardian