The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Philippine President Duterte Admitted to Personally Killing People

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

duterte
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.

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 the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

More from Foreign Policy

A propaganda poster from the 1960s shows Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
A propaganda poster from the 1960s shows Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

Xi’s Great Leap Backward

Beijing is running out of recipes for its looming jobs crisis—and reviving Mao-era policies.

A textile worker at the Maxport factory in Hanoi on Sept. 21, 2021.
A textile worker at the Maxport factory in Hanoi on Sept. 21, 2021.

Companies Are Fleeing China for Friendlier Shores

“Friendshoring” is the new trend as geopolitics bites.

German children stand atop building rubble in Berlin in 1948.
German children stand atop building rubble in Berlin in 1948.

Why Superpower Crises Are a Good Thing

A new era of tensions will focus minds and break logjams, as Cold War history shows.

Vacationers sit on a beach in Greece.
Vacationers sit on a beach in Greece.

The Mediterranean as We Know It Is Vanishing

From Saint-Tropez to Amalfi, the region’s most attractive tourist destinations are also its most vulnerable.