MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he killed three kidnappers in 1988 when he was Davao City mayor to save a woman hostage.
"There were three of them; I didn't really know how many bullets from my gun went through... their bodies," Mr Duterte told reporters in Singapore last Friday evening before his flight back home, according to a transcript e-mailed by his office.
"It happened. I cannot lie about it," he said in English.
"They were not suspects. Those are people who dared to fight the law. And because I had an M16, I carried one because Davao was then a wild country, I had to restore order and I took the bull by the horns," he said at a televised briefing yesterday in Davao City.
Being a self-confessed killer does not make him unfit to be president, Mr Duterte said. What he had done was justified, "given the problems of my country".
"At least I killed to protect people," Mr Duterte said. "I am not a dictator, killing my political opponents to stay in power."
The remarks followed comments he made last Monday, when he told business leaders that as mayor, he patrolled the streets on a motorcycle and killed criminal suspects to set an example for his police officers.
"And I'd go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike... and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble," he said last Monday. "I was really looking for a confrontation, so I could kill."
Philippine officials loyal to the President have tried to soften his earlier remarks, saying Mr Duterte has a tendency to exaggerate.
"The President always resorts to hyperbole - he always exaggerates just to put his message across," Mr Vitaliano Aguirre II, the justice minister, said last Wednesday.
When he was mayor of Davao City, Mr Duterte was known to carry a .38-calibre pistol and was accused of overseeing a death squad to kill criminal suspects. As president, he has led a nationwide war on drugs, which has singled out drug dealers and users, and has left more than 3,000 people dead.
Mr Duterte said his government will not hesitate to keep on eliminating those resisting arrest until he has rid the streets of illegal substances in a country with, by his own estimates, four million addicts.
The President, who admitted last Monday that he takes Fentanyl - a potent opioid medication - to relieve him of his daily migraines and spinal pain, denied that he is addicted.
"I am not an addict, only when it is prescribed," he said in reply to a question from a reporter last Monday. "Addiction is only when you take it with regularity, my friend."