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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte: 'My only sin is extrajudicial killings

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made a comment that he was guilty of "extrajudicial killings" in his country, but his supporters insist he was not serious. (Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

Human rights groups seized on comments made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, saying he admitted to the killings he's been accused of ordering when the leader referenced the allegations against him in a speech.

What are the details?

Speaking to a group of government leaders, Duterte said he had granted power to the military to remove him from office if they disagreed with his method of ruling, asking what "sins" he had committed.

"I told the military, what is my fault? Did I steal even a peso?" he asked, the New York Times reported. "My only sin is the extrajudicial killings."

Duterte has led a two-year crackdown on drug users and dealers in his country that has resulted in thousands of deaths. According to the Daily Mail, the Philippine National Police estimates that 4,500 people have been killed and that the circumstances were all legitimate, but human rights groups say the number is likely more than 12,000.

The president has repeatedly denied that extrajudicial killings have been allowed under his rule. He said drug suspects were killed only when they fought back against police. In his speech Thursday, he said, "Four thousand deaths. When? Where? How? What did I use? Nothing," Fox News reported.

President Duterte currently faces two complaints filed with International Criminal Court  that allege he directed mass murders against his own people. Following the leader's comments, Human Rights Watch urged the I.C.C. to speed up its inquiries, telling Fox News that Duterte's "admission should erase any doubt about the culpability of the president."

An attorney for the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Romel Bagares told the Times that Duterte's statements Thursday were "by far his most direct admission of being responsible for" the killings he's accused of ordering.

"And I'm surprised there has been no retraction of any kind from the palace since he made them," Bagares added. "I'm sure this would also be of extreme interest to the I.C.C.'s Office of the Trial Prosecutor now making a preliminary investigation of his drug war."

What are Duterte's supporters saying?

But Duterte's supporters have dismissed his comments, swatting away assertions that he was serious when he said he had ordered killings.

Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde told reporters at a press briefing, "The president said that out of frustration. It's because there are no issues that could be thrown at him so it's as if he said, 'Alright, I'll just admit it.' So he said it out of frustration."

The Daily Mail cited other government officials who said the president was "only being playful," and "not serious."

One last thing…
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