Speaking in the city of Da Nang on Friday ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Duterte said he got into several “rumbles” as a teenager, and was in and out of jail.
“At the age of 16, I had already killed someone. A real person, a rumble, a stabbing,” Duterte said, adding that the stabbing was prompted by someone looking at him the wrong way. “That was when I was just 16… what more now that I’m a president?”
The firebrand leader also reiterated his previous threat to slap UN human rights expert Agnes Callamard if she investigates him for thousands of deaths linked to his government’s brutal crackdown on drug suspects.
Shortly after those remarks, Duterte proposed hosting an international human rights summit in the Philippines, saying countries like the U.S., France and Russia needed to be investigated for violating human rights.
Duterte’s spokesman later suggested the president was joking about the stabbing story. “I think it was in jest. The Pres uses colourful language when [with] Pinoys (Filipinos) overseas,” the spokesman told AFP in a text message.
WATCH: Philippines’ Duterte says he personally patrolled the streets to look for criminals to kill
Duterte won last year’s presidential elections on a promise to eradicate drug-related crimes. Since then, Philippine police have reported killing nearly 4,000 people. Thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.
Police have maintained that they only kill criminals in self-defence, but Amnesty International has accused them of shooting defenceless people dead and hiring assassins to murder drug addicts.
With Duterte set to host world leaders in Manila on Sunday, human rights groups are concerned that U.S. President Donald Trump and Asian leaders appear unlikely to criticize his violent rule.
“Duterte will enjoy the gift of tacit silence from East Asian leaders on his murderous drug war during the upcoming summit,” Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine told AFP. “We can expect East Asian leaders to exercise a diplomatic blind eye to the killings of thousands of Filipinos over the past 16 months as part of Duterte’s drug war.”
WATCH: Duterte’s popularity takes a significant hit
The 71-year-old has rarely taken kindly to criticism of his drug war.
Last year, he was reported to have branded then-U.S. president Barack Obama a “son of a wh**e” over criticism of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, although he later said the curse was targeted at a reporter.
More recently, Duterte asked the head of his country’s Commission on Human Rights if his concern over the killings of teenage criminal suspects stemmed from his being a “pedophile.”
He also responded with a slur when a reporter asked a question about whether he discussed human rights during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“Human rights, son of a b***h,” he said at the time.
— With files from AFP
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