SINGAPORE, Singapore: President Rodrigo Duterte boasted again Friday he had killed criminals, as he vowed no let up in his war on drugs that has already claimed thousands of lives.
In an hour-long speech to Filipinos in Singapore, Duterte referred to international news coverage of his claims this week that in his previous role as mayor of a major southern city he killed suspects to set an example for police.
“To spare you embarrassment about the crawlers on television that have been running on CNN and even the BBC since yesterday that says Duterte admits killing or shooting the criminals: they were not mistaken,” he said.
People in the 6,500-strong crowd cheered as Duterte used his trademark strong language to promise his drug war would continue.
“Sons of whores I will really kill these idiots,” he said.
“My campaign on drugs will not end, until the end of my term six years from now when every drug pusher is (killed),” he said, making a throat-cutting gesture.
Duterte easily won presidential elections in May largely on a promise to eradicate illegal drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.
More than 5,000 people have been killed since Duterte took office in late June, leading to fears of mass extrajudicial killings and a breakdown in the rule of law.
Duterte’s comments this week about personally killing people when he was mayor of Davao city triggered fresh outrage from rights groups.
Long-running efforts by a United Nations rights rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, to probe the drug war hit another hurdle on Friday when she said she had rejected three conditions for her visit set by Duterte’s government.
Callamard said she had written to the government urging it to reconsider the conditions, which included a public debate with Duterte.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, speaking to reporters in Singapore on Friday, said the government would not make any concessions.
“If she cannot comply with it (the Philippine conditions), then that’s the end of it,” Yasay said.
Duterte has repeatedly insisted neither he nor his security forces are breaking any laws in prosecuting the crime war.
Duterte’s aides and political supporters this week shrugged off his statements about personally killing people.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said Duterte did not violate any law, and either was making up the claims or had killed people only in self defence.
“The president always uses hyperbole, is always exaggerated to put his message across,” Aguirre said Wednesday.
“If the suspect fought back, he must have been forced to kill him.”
Surveys show many Filipinos endorse Duterte’s campaign, and some of those who turned up to listen to him in Singapore on Friday expressed sentiments felt by compatriots back home.
“When the president promises that he will solve the drugs and crime problem, it’s very hopeful for us,” said Eloisa Lopez, 50, a domestic worker who had taken time off to volunteer at the event.
Singapore’s leaders also gave Duterte a warm welcome during his two-day state visit, that began early Thursday.
Duterte enjoyed a state dinner and had an orchid named after him — an honour often accorded to world leaders visiting Singapore.