In the latest in a long line of controversial statements, Rodrigo Duterte, the 71-year-old president of the Philippines, admitted on Monday that he used to ride around on a motorbike seeking confrontation. As mayor of Davao from 2013-2016, Duterte claimed, he would cruise the city searching for trouble – “so I could kill” – and hoped to show police officers how it was done.
The admission won’t come as much of a surprise to those who have been following the actions of the man nicknamed “Duterte Harry” for his hard-line approach to crime and his stance on drugs.
“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you,” he said in an AFP article published Monday. “And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
Since taking office at the end of June, Duterte has initiated a reign of terror on drug dealers and users, allowing police and vigilantes to carry out summary killings in towns and cities across the Philippines, with the death toll from the campaign already exceeding 5,000. By some accounts, what Duterte is doing amounts to genocide.
In 2015, Duterte claimed he had personally killed three people in Davao accused of kidnap and rape. But he subsequently backtracked on those comments. Indeed, just hours before his latest admission, Duterte had said “I am not a killer” at a ceremony for The Outstanding Filipino Awards 2016.
These latest comments follow a pattern of inflammatory statements from the Philippine president:
- “Pope, son of a whore” Last November Duterte called Pope Francis a “son of a whore” — his favorite insult — for the simple reason that the pontiff made Manila’s already terrible traffic even worse during his official visit. Duterte subsequently said he wanted to visit the Vatican to apologize personally. Since becoming president, however, he has said such a trip would be an “exercise in duplicity.”
- “Gay, son of a whore” In August, Duterte sparked a diplomatic row with Washington when he used a homophobic slur against U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg. “As you know, I’m fighting with [U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s] ambassador. His gay ambassador, the son of a whore. He pissed me off,” Duterte said.
- Obama is a “son of a bitch” In September, Duterte warned Barack Obama that should the U.S. president question him about his war on drugs, “son of a bitch, I will swear at you.” On Tuesday Duterte admitted feigning sickness to avoid an “awkward situation” by coming face-to-face with Obama at a meeting between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Peru the same month.
- Seemingly praising Hitler In the same month, Duterte compared himself to the architect of the Holocaust. Speaking in his hometown, the president said: “If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,” and then he pointed at himself. “Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now … there’s 3 million drug addicts [in the Philippines]. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
- The UN is “stupid” When two United Nations human rights experts called Duterte’s war on drugs an “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law,” the Philippine president responded by calling the experts “stupid” and threatening to pull out of the organization. “I do not want to insult you, but maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations,” he said. “If you are that rude, we might just as well leave.”
- Comments about rape Speaking about the rape and murder of a missionary in the Philippines in 1989, Duterte said she was so attractive that “he should have been first.” He was forced to apologize after initially claiming that that was just “how men talked.”