Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday backtracked on his statement about throwing a Chinese rape suspect out of a helicopter and promising to do it again to corrupt officials.
A clip of Duterte's speech was posted on a video feed of the president's office, in which he is seen admitting that he had thrown crime suspects out of helicopters. "If you are corrupt, I will fetch you using a helicopter to Manila and I will throw you out. I have done this before, why would I not do it again?," Duterte told victims of a typhoon in a speech on Tuesday.
However, in an interview with CNN, Duterte retracted his statement, saying, "We had no helicopter; we don't use that." He also added, "I am playing you. Your team knows I really want to say jokes."
Duterte had earlier admitted to killing people during his tenure as the mayor of Davao city. The president said that he sometimes used to ride a motorcycle in the city seeking "encounters to kill." His admittance of murder has drawn criticism from several leaders, with some senators in the state saying that Duterte risks impeachment by making such declarations.
Philippines' long-time ally, the United States, has increasingly become concerned over his anti-America comments and his violent war on drugs in the nation. When asked by Reuters if the US knew about the Philippines President's statement about the helicopter, State Department spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen said that it was aware.
"As we have stated previously, we are deeply concerned by reports of extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities in the Philippines," Richey-Allen told the agency in an email.
Duterte has been embroiled in controversies ever since he took over as the president in June. He has encouraged citizens in Philippines to bring drug peddlers to justice in the country as part of his crackdown on suspected drug dealers and users. According to reports, over 2,800 people have been killed in this crackdown so far.
After Duterte's claims of killing people, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, called for an investigation into the claims. Duterte, however, replied to the envoy's suggestion for launch of investigations by calling him "stupid," an "idiot" and a "son of a bitch" who should go back to school, Reuters reported.
Duterte's anti-drug campaign has been widely criticised by various countries and global rights organisations, including the United States, the United Nations and the European Union. The rights organisations have deemed the killings in Philippines under the anti-drug campaigns as extrajudicial killings.