MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would "never" deny his kill threats against narcotics peddlers, which he said the International Criminal Court "can record", as it mounts a possible inquiry into his alleged crimes against humanity in his drug war.
In his final State of the Nation Address, Duterte said authorities should "dig" into an individual who he who allegedly smuggled AK-47s into the country, on the pretense of using it for providing security to business establishments.
"If you see them walking around, kindly shoot them dead," he said, addressing former police chief Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, who was in the audience.
"I will be happy. Anyway, you will be charged in the ICC together with me. So what is the problem of adding another one, another idiot Filipino who has caused great damage to our country?" said the President.
A prosecutor of the ICC has requested a full-blown inquiry into the alleged crimes against humanity under Duterte's flagship campaign, where thousands of drug suspects have been killed.
"I’ll never deny, and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country, I will kill you," said Duterte.
"And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you. Talagang yayariin kita (I will really end you) because I love my country. We all can do it the legal way but it would take you months and years," he added.
The war on drugs is Duterte's signature program and he defends it fiercely, especially from critics such as Western leaders and institutions which he says do not care about the Philippines.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in over 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to official data. Human rights groups estimate the number of dead could be several times higher.
Many suspects have been put on "drug watch lists" by local officials and then visited by police at their homes— a situation that often ends in a deadly shooting that officers claim was self-defense.
Duterte refuses to submit to the possible ICC inquiry. In 2019, he withdrew the Philippines from the ICC after it launched a preliminary examination into the war on drugs.
The court could still investigate crimes committed while the country was a member, ICC's former chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse