(UPDATE – 10:45 a.m.) Once again defending his deadly war on drugs and making light of the possibility he might be jailed for the loss of lives, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has spent time behind bars, including for knifing a person dead when he was only 16.
As his predecessor was wont to do before, presidential spokesman Harry Roque quickly sought to soften the impact of Duterte’s statement, claiming it was said “in jest.”
“The President uses colorful language when with Pinoys overseas,” Roque said in a statement.
“Kulong? Ay sus. Kulong nu’ng teenager ako, pasok, labas, pasok ako sa kulungan. Rumble dito, rumb … at the age of 16, may pinatay na ako eh. Tao talaga. Rumble. Saksak. Noon 16 years old ‘yun. Nagkatinginan lang (Jail? … when I was a teenager, i went in and out of jail. There were rumbles … at the age of 16, I killed someone. Really, a person. Stabbed him. I was 16 years old then. We just stared at each other), he told the Filipino community in Vietnam on Thursday, November 9
Then he added: “Eh lalo na ngayon presidente ako (what more now that I am president)?”
During the same speech, he threatened to “slap” United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard if she dared investigate him for the drug war deaths.
It is not the first time Duterte, who is in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, has boasted about personal acts of violence, even killings, statements that have seen his subalterns scrambling to interpret or temper his words, including a suggestion his former spokesman Ernesto Abella made to media to use their “creative imagination.”
He often makes such statements in the context of fending off criticism for the loss of lives in the war on drugs, which some groups estimate at more than 13,000 and counting, and maintaining he is right to threaten death on those he sees as out to destroy the country and its youth.
This, too, appeared to be the spirit in which he boasted of teenage murder. “You fuck with my countrymen, ‘di kita papalusutin. Bahala na kayong (I won’t let you off unscathed. You can do what you like) human rights,” the latter an apparent reference to human right groups and experts who say he could be liable for crimes against humanity for the war on drugs.
In the past Duterte has, among others, claimed to have shot a “bully” classmate at San Beda law school and gunned down three men when he was mayor of Davao City.