MANILA – The United States on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte boasting of personally killing people is "deeply troubling," and is contrary to Philippines' commitment to due process.
“Those comments are deeply troubling, and they certainly are at odds with the Philippine government’s stated commitment to due process and rule of law,” President Obama’s chief spokesman, Josh Earnest, was quoted as saying by Washington correspondent Olivier Knox.
Duterte made the comments in a speech before businessmen late Monday, as he discussed his campaign to eradicate illegal drugs, which has seen police and unknown assailants kill thousands of people since he became president on June 30.
Duterte claimed he led similar efforts when he was mayor of Davao, the major southern city that he ruled for over two decades.
"In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys (police) that if I can do it why can't you," Duterte said in his speech at the presidential palace.
"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."
Duterte, 71, also responded to criticism from human rights groups and US President Barack Obama about his anti-crime tactics, vowing he would not be intimidated by their criticism.
"Sorry, I am not about to do that," he said.
In a speech to expatriate Filipinos during a state visit to Cambodia on Tuesday, Duterte joked that as mayor of Davao he would go on missions with police and shoot blindly at criminal suspects.
"I (would) sometimes go along with them. If you say I shot someone, maybe I did. I was closing my eyes because I am scared of firing a gun," said Duterte, a lawyer and former state prosecutor.
Rights groups have previously accused Duterte of running vigilante death squads in Davao that killed more than 1,000 suspected criminals, including children accused of petty crimes.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Thursday urged the public not to take literally Duterte’s statement.
“You know very well that the President pag nagsalita ay matapang. Since he was the mayor he speaks like that but hindi naman lahat you should take it literally because it has always been the style of the president to instill fear in the minds of the criminals so that they won't do any harm. Alam niyo naman that is really the style of the president,” Andanar told reporters.
Duterte has variously denied and acknowledged involvement in the death squads.
But he easily won presidential elections in May after promising to roll-out his Davao law-and-order policies across the nation.
He pledged that 100,000 people would die in the crackdown and that so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that fish there would grow fat from feeding on them. – with Agence France-Presse