Manila, Philippines – Rodrigo Duterte has claimed his “only sin” is the killing of thousands of people during his war on drugs in the Philippines.
The president made the apparent confession in a speech criticising opposition leader Francis Pangilinan during an oath-taking ceremony at his palace in Manila.
“What is my sin? Did I steal money, even just one peso?” he is reported as saying. “Did I prosecute somebody I sent to jail? My only sin is extrajudicial killings.”
At least 4,000 people, mostly small-time drug users and dealers, have been killed in shootouts with police during anti-drugs operations since Mr Duterte came to power in June 2016.
However human rights organisations argue the true figure, including vigilante executions believed to be sanctioned by the state, is closer to 13,000.
Mr Duterte has previously acknowledged the existence of extra-judicial killings but has denied they are state-sponsored.
In his speech on Thursday he also appeared to blame the police, describing them as “ninja cops”. He added: “It is an organised crime really.”
The president went on to lash out at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which announced in February that it was carrying out a preliminary examination of the alleged crimes.
“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,” Mr Duterte said.
Six months ago Mr Duterte announced that he was withdrawing from the ICC but the move will not take effect until March 2019.