Philippines president Duterte 'blindly fired' at suspected criminals while mayor

He claimed he used to patrol the streets with police

Philippines president Duterte 'blindly fired' at suspected criminals while mayor

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attends a signing ceremony at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia | Image: Heng Sinith AP/Press Association Images

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has said he used to tour city streets on a motorcycle looking for suspected criminals to shoot dead.

The former mayor of Davao claimed he used to patrol the streets with police and blindly fire at suspects during his 20 years running the southern city.

Mr Duterte made the remarks in Cambodia while talking to expatriates about his personal mission to wipe out illegal drugs, a campaign which has led to police and unknown assailants killing thousands of people since the president took office on June 30th.

Speaking to the businessmen at the Cambodian presidential palace, Mr Duterte said: "In Davao I used to do it personally.

"Just to show to the guys (police) that if I can do it why can't you.

"And I'd go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike...and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also.

"I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill."

The lawyer and former state prosecutor said: "If you say I shot someone, maybe I did. I was closing my eyes because I am scared of firing a gun."

Defiant in the face of criticism

The president's justice secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre II, later told reporters that Mr Duterte may have been exaggerating his activities in Davao during the speech to send a warning to criminals.

Mr Duterte (71) has been defiant in the face of criticism from human rights groups and US President Barack Obama about his anti-crime tactics, saying he would not be intimidated into stopping.

"Sorry, I am not about to do that," he said.

Mr Duterte has previously been accused of running vigilante death squads in Davao - which organised the killing of more than 1,000 suspected criminals, including children, accused of petty crimes.

He has both denied and acknowledged involvement in the death squads.

However, he has the support of the people, having easily won the presidential election in May after promising to roll out such law and order policies across the nation.

Since he won the presidency, 2,086 people have been reported killed in anti-drug operations.

More than 3,000 others have been killed in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures.