SINGAPORE - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday again defended the killing of drug pushers, following a new controversy caused by his recent admission that he "personally" killed suspected criminals while serving as mayor of Davao City for 23 years.
"If you are into drugs and destroy our youth, the next generation after us, I would hate it and I will kill you. Simple as that," Duterte said to loud cheers while addressing thousands of Filipinos in Singapore amid a two-day state visit through Friday.
"Look, it can never be a crime to say that 'I will kill you if you destroy my country'," Duterte said, adding, "That is a very legitimate statement."
The president's remarks came after he told a business gathering Monday regarding the killing of suspects, "In Davao, I used to do it personally, just to show to the (police) that if I can do it, why can't you?"
"I go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike, and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble also. I'm really looking around for an encounter so I can kill," he said.
Sen. Leila de Lima, Duterte's fiercest critic in the Philippine Congress, said the president could be impeached for his admission, while Vice President Leni Robredo said she is concerned he may be "inspiring other people to take the law into their own hands."
In a media interview later in the day, Duterte appeared to deny ordering extrajudicial killings, saying he has simply told police to hunt for drug suspects and "arrest them if it's possible, but if they offer a violent resistance...then kill them."
Asked if he thinks that makes him fit for the job of president, he replied, "Yes, of course. Given the problems of my country, yes. I have a four million drug addicts in my country, so that is not a joke."
On Thursday, the United States said it is withholding a major aid package to the Philippines over human rights concerns and expressed concern over Duterte's latest remarks.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest called them "deeply troubling" and "at odds with the Philippine government's stated commitment to due process and rule of law."
Duterte told reporters Friday that "we will not go hungry without the American aid. We are not that desperate. We can always get it from China and Russia."
He said it was "fine" for Washington to criticize him for extrajudicial killings when he was mayor of Davao, but it is now unacceptable. "Don't scold me as if I were your houseboy, because I am the president of the Philippines," he said.
Recalling past U.S. misdeeds in the Philippines, he said, "And you have gall to say to me, we will cut your aid? I told (U.S. President Barack) Obama, 'Obama go to hell'."
"It's high time we craft (an) independent foreign policy."