The Cable

Philippine President Duterte Admitted to Personally Killing People

"I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill."

duterte

Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, admitted to personally killing people during his time as mayor of Davao.

Speaking at the presidential palace late Monday on his war on drugs and drug users, Duterte said, “In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you. And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”

Also on Monday, the Philippines’ national police released statistics saying that over 5,900 have been killed in the war on drugs since July 1 of this year.

The confession is not the first time Duterte has made a controversial comment with respect to his fervor for killing drug users. In October, the president likened himself to Hitler, saying that he too would be happy to kill millions.

Duterte has also said that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised his war on drugs in a “very engaging, animated” phone call. President Barack Obama, in contrast, discouraged the campaign; Duterte, who not long ago called Obama a son of a whore, said on Monday he is not about to dial down his war on drugs over Obama’s protestations.

Duterte later apologized for the Hitler comparison, and for insulting Obama, but not for his desire to kill millions of drug users. That makes a Duterte apology for personally executing suspected drug users all the more unlikely — an odd state of affairs indeed for the leader of a country with close historic ties to the United States, and which is still a linchpin of America’s Pacific strategy.

Photo credit: TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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