Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has gone even further than supporting vigilante death squads—when he was mayor of Davao, he killed criminals himself, he said during a speech Monday night. "I'd go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble," he said. "I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill. ... Just to show the guys [police] that if I can do it, why can't you?" Duterte, who has been nicknamed Duterte Harry after Dirty Harry, was discussing his campaign against illegal drugs at the time. He has previously expressed support for civilians taking matters into their own hands and killing drug addicts, but human rights groups have accused him of running death squads in Davao that even killed children accused of petty crimes, DW reports.
More than 5,000 people have been killed by police and "unknown assailants" since Duterte took office at the end of June, about 2,000 of them in official anti-drug operations, the Guardian reports. Duterte has also said he won't prosecute police for extrajudicial executions, while insisting he and his security forces won't directly participate in illegal killings. Human rights groups are concerned about order in the country deteriorating, as masked assailants are also known to kill those simply suspected to be drug traffickers or users, and both hired assassins and "hit squads" secretly made up of police officers are believed to be allowed to kill without consequences. The Washington Post says that Monday night's comments should have been shocking, but his supporters keep shrugging such admissions off.