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Duterte admits to personally killing during Davao hostage incidents

SINGAPORE (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed he did claim to have personally killed criminals and specified that this was during the shoot-outs against hostage-takers in various occasions in the 1980s.

“It was actually an event that was covered by the TV and all. It was about the hostage-taking. One day, I decided to return to the victim. I was already there waiting for them and it was covered by all the television networks in Davao,” said Duterte during an interview with reporters on Friday, December 16 in Singapore.

In a press conference on Saturday, Duterte said one such hostage-taking incident where he might have killed criminals happened in 1988 when he was just 3 months into the Davao City mayorship.

A woman was kidnapped and taken to Cotabato where she was taken hostage. The kidnappers demanded P2 million from her family.

Duterte organized an operation to rescue the woman. As the kidnappers were passing through the area he planted with shooters, Duterte saw a gun pointed at their direction, and after making sure the hostage was safe, ordered government forces to shoot the criminals.

With his M16 rifle, he joined in the shooting. He said he isn't even sure if his bullets hit anyone.

"When they refused to stop we saw a carbine pointed at us, we were parked nearby so the shooting started...When I saw them going back, I grabbed my M16... there was a firefight and there were about 3 of us there so I might have hit them all or none at all," he said.

Another incident in which Duterte admitted personally killing criminals was the August 1989 hostage-taking in the Davao Penal Colony.

It's a story Duterte has told before, most controversially during the 2016 campaign season when he related the rape and death of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill.

Hamill was one of the hostages of prisoners who went amok in the Davao prison. There were also 8 other women and a 9-year-old boy held hostage, according to an old article by the Chicago Tribune.

Duterte claimed he got so angry at the prisoner hostage-takers that he got a gun, an Uzi, and started shooting into the room.

He had been telling this story since the campaign period. On April 17 for instance, he told reporters, “Isang magazine inubos ko yun. Bakbakan na kami. Tapos patay na lahat.” (I finished one magazine. We shot it out. And everyone was killed.)

'I killed to protect'

During his Saturday speech, Duterte said he had killed "many others in my career of 23 years," mostly during hostage-taking incidents.

All those he killed died during shoot-outs with government forces, not through extrajudicial killings, he claimed.

"All of them died while they were fighting government people," he said.

"You are pictured as a killer. So? At least I killed to protect people. I am not a dictator killing my political opponents to stay in power," said the President.

But when Duterte last made mention of personally killing, he made it sound like he was roaming around Davao City streets looking to kill someone.

“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the [police] that if I can do it, why can't you? I go around in Davao [on] a big bike and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble. I was really looking for an encounter to kill," he said last December 12 during a Wallace Business Forum event in Malacañang.

Asked on Friday if he would still kill with his own hands now that he is President, Duterte said he won’t but he can order the police or military to kill provided they follow the law.

“No, I will order, I will order that I said if you go out and hunt for them, the drug guys, arrest them if it’s possible but if they offer a violent resistance and you think, as a policeman or military man, you will also die, then kill them,” he said.

Duterte has also told police and military they will get promotions if they mass-murder criminals.

The President and his spokesman have told journalists and the public that these statements seemingly tolerating state-sponsored murder are only meant to intimidate criminals and should not be taken literally. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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