Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has apparently admitted to sanctioning extrajudicial killings during his self-declared crackdown on drug dealers and addicts, nicknamed the "war on drugs."
The 73-year-old president made the confession during a speech at the presidential palace on Thursday. "I told the military, what is my fault? Did I steal even one peso?" he questioned rhetorically, as quoted by local news site Rappler. "My [only] sin is the extrajudicial killings."
According to The Guardian, Duterte also reaffirmed his commitment to the ongoing war on drugs. "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 honor."
However, Duterte's spokesman, Martin Andanar, explained to the BBC that the controversial remarks are "the style of the President," intended to "instill fear in the minds of the criminals." He detailed that Duterte's comments should be taken "seriously, but not literally."
The Philippines strongman campaigned on a promise to end drug-related crimes in his country. As a follow-up to his election as president in June 2016, he launched a large-scale anti-drug campaign, which led to the killing of thousands of people during police anti-drug raids.
The president has been accused of violating human rights by campaigners and international organizations, which claim that the real death toll of Duterte's drug war largely surpasses the numbers provided by official statistics (roughly 4,500 people). The Philippines officials stressed that the victims were suspected drug dealers who resisted arrest.