Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has said he takes responsibility for the thousands of killings by police in his anti-drug crackdown, claiming he was ready to go to jail if it served his country.
In a televised speech on Monday night, Duterte, whose government has been heavily criticized by international organizations for nearly 6,000 killings committed during anti-drug police operations, said he was ready to be punished.
If there’s killing there, I’m saying I’m the one… you can hold me responsible for anything, any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war.
“Bring me to court to be imprisoned. Fine, I have no problem. If I serve my country by going to jail, gladly,” Duterte added.
The president, known for his coarse and boastful rhetoric, spoke of the “sacred duty” that has been ridding his county of drugs and communist insurgents belonging to the New People’s Army.
“If you get killed, it’s because I’m enraged by drugs,” he added.
Duterte’s remarks came amid acknowledgement he could face criminal charges for the bloody drug war he launched after taking office in 2016, as at least two complaints for crimes against humanity and mass murder are being examined by an International Criminal Court prosecutor. The ICC is yet to decide whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale investigation.
Police report that 5,856 suspects have been killed and more than 256,000 others arrested since the start of the crackdown, although it is estimated that the real death toll is considerably larger.
In September, Duterte – who rose to power on an anti-drug agenda – once again made headlines for ordering customs officials to shoot and kill drug smugglers, asserting “if it’s drugs, you shoot and kill.”
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