PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte admitted his “only sin” is the extrajudicial killing of thousands of people during his ongoing war on drugs.
Duterte made the confession during his speech criticising opposition leader Francis Pangilinan at an oath-taking ceremony in Manila.
“What is my sin? Did I steal money, even just one peso?” CNN reported him saying. “Did I prosecute somebody I sent to jail? My only sin is extrajudicial killings.”
Duterte has in the past acknowledged extrajudicial killings have taken place but denied they were state-sanctioned.
According to government data, more than 4,000 people have been killed in his anti-drugs campaign since Duterte came to power in June 2016.
But local and international human rights groups believe the true figure is closer to 13,000, many of whom were killed by vigilante groups.
Police have not accepted any wrongdoing, claiming those that died were resisting arrest. But Duterte pointed to corrupt officers possibly being behind the killings.
“Four thousand deaths. When? Where? How? What did they use?” Duterte said. He said “ninja cops”, or police officers involved in drug operations, may be responsible for these killings.
“They are the ones killing those who can’t remit to them. It’s an organised crime actually.”
In his speech, Duterte also lashed out at the International Criminal Court (ICC) which announced in February that it would be carrying out investigations into the killings and Duterte’s role.
“You are actually exercising functions that you are not supposed to do, (which) belongs to the government. At the very least, you are committing usurpation of authority,” Duterte said.
Following the ICC’s announcement, Duterte decided to withdraw the Philippines from the court but the departure doesn’t take effect until March 2019. The ICC does not have jurisdiction over non-member countries.
The Court has, however, said it will continue its investigation as it retains jurisdiction “over crimes committed during the time in which the state was party to the statute.”
Duterte has had a tumultuous few weeks. On Wednesday, he had one of his staunchest critics, Senator Antonio Trillanes, arrested. He also claimed there was an assassination plot against him.
On Tuesday, he told a state-owned television network that he possessed a recording provided by a foreign country that a group of politicians from the opposition had banded together with Maoist rebels and former military officials to oust or kill him.
Despite maintaining high popularity throughout most of his tenure, polls released Tuesday show Duterte suffered his biggest slump in ratings in the third quarter as public unease grows over rising inflation and cost of living.