Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has led a violent anti-drug campaign that killed thousands of people, said he uses marijuana, but almost immediately reversed his statement, saying that he was joking.
Duterte was talking about his hectic schedule, particularly the meetings during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit held in Singapore last month, according to Al Jazeera.
“Don’t say I told you but [Brunei Sultan Hassanal] Bolkiah always falls asleep, but he has a talent … and you don’t notice,” Duterte said during a speech. “Me, [I don’t fall asleep] as much because I was taking marijuana to stay awake. For others, it’s not possible.”
After the speech, Duterte told reporters that he was just joking and that he doesn’t use pot. However, regardless of whether Duterte was telling the truth or making an off-color joke, the remarks fell flat against the backdrop of a bloody crackdown on drugs in the Philippines.
“This will definitely anger the families [of victims of the violence] even more,” Carlos Conde, a Philippines researcher with the New York-based Human Rights Watch, told Reuters. “There is a disconnect between what the president admitted to do and what the president said he will do to those who use drugs. Now, if the president admitted probably in jest … then that demolishes the credibility of this whole thing.”
Duterte kicked off his violent campaign in 2016, vowing to clear the Philippines of drug trafficking and drug abuse. Some agencies estimate that as many as 5,000 people were killed as a result.
“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun — you have my support. Shoot [them] and I’ll give you a medal,” he said.
Duterte went so far as to say that he would hypothetically order the execution of his son Paolo, who allegedly took bribes to allow the import of crystal meth, if the man was found guilty.
“I said before my order was: ‘If I have children who are into drugs, kill them so people will not have anything to say,’” Duterte said in Sept. 2017. “So I told [Paolo]: ‘My order is to kill you if you are caught. And I will protect the police who kill you, if it is true.’”
On a day when federal police killed 32 people reportedly associated with drug abuse, Duterte praised the actions.
“Let’s kill another 32 every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” he said.
However, in Oct. 2017 Duterte called off the war on drugs after public outcry about the murder of three teenagers.
“This is better for the bleeding hearts and the media,” Duterte said at the time. “I hope I will satisfy you.”
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