MANILA –– The President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed to the BBC that he shot dead three men while mayor of Davao.
He said: “I killed about three of them . . . I don’t know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened and I cannot lie about it.”
His statement came hours after his spokesman denied that Duterte had personally killed anyone.
The recent controversy began on Wednesday at the president’s palace.
He told a group of business leaders gathered there: “In Davao I used to do it [kill] personally. Just to show to the guys [police] that if I can do it why can’t you.
“And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
Duterte was mayor of the southern city for two decades, during which time he earned a reputation for brutally suppressing crime, and was accused of sponsoring death squads.
He first spoke about killing three men in 2015, while still mayor of Davao. He said that the men were suspected of kidnapping and rape.
Speaking to the BBC on Friday, Duterte’s spokesman Martin Andanar said the president’s apparent admissions were simply tough talk and that he was “not a killer”.
“That is the style of the president, ever since he was a mayor he would talk that way,” Andanar said.
“We do not take all of those statements literally. We take it seriously, but we don’t take it literally.”
But hours later Duterte reiterated his earlier admissions. But he denied reports that he had shot people who were kneeling down with their hands tied behind their back.
Speaking to the BBC after a news conference, Duterte pledged to wage his war on drug dealers “until the last day of my term”.
Nearly 6,000 people are said to have been killed by police, vigilantes and mercenaries in the Philippines since Duterte launched a drug war after being elected in May.
Critics say he has encouraged police and vigilantes to shoot drug dealers and users on sight.
Duterte denied that he was a drug addict himself, despite using the powerful pain killer Fentanyl.
“I’m not an addict,” he said. “Only when it is prescribed. Addiction is only with regularity, my friend.”
Duterte has admitted to using the drug, saying he had migraines and issues with his spine.
Andanar dismissed claims that the president was suffering from the side effects of Fentanyl, which can cause confusion, anxiety and even hallucinations.
“[Duterte] is healthy,” Andanar said. “We’ve seen him work till the wee hours of the morning. He is in a hurry, [and is] very impatient because our country has been dragged down to the toilet.”
The president’s admission on Wednesday sparked calls for his impeachment from opposition leaders and rights groups.
It was the latest in a series of controversial claims by Duterte since he became president.
Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, has said his admission could be grounds for impeachment.