Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, says the motivation for his brutal clampdown on drugs comes in part from being sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a child.
The 71-year-old has attracted attention for a tough crackdown on the Filipino drug trade that has seen almost 4,000 people killed by police and vigilante gangs since he took office on 30 June.
Asked about how being abused had influenced him, Mr Duterte told Al Jazeera: “It’s what you get along the way that shapes your character. At that time [it influences] your politics and how you look at the world."
“It blends into something that forms your own values in life”.
The president first spoke about his childhood abuse in December 2015, claiming he was “fondled” by a priest when he was younger. He said the abuse took place during confession.
Since taking office earlier this year Mr Duterte has faced criticism from the international community, human rights groups and the Catholic Church for his brutal war on drugs.
Opponents say the president’s vocal encouragement for killing drug dealers has led to a breakdown of law and order in the country.
But in his latest interview Mr Duterte defended the policy, saying the crackdown was needed because “the sheer number of people contaminated will pull my country down. It will destroy the next generation of Filipinos.”
“You destroy my country, I’ll kill you – it’s a legitimate thing. If you destroy our young children, I will kill you. That is a very correct statement”, he added.
The president said killings of children would be investigated but that clashes between police and gangsters would inevitably cause civilian causalities because “with a policeman with an M16 it’s one burst…brrr…and hits 1,000 people and they die."
“It could not be negligence because he has to save his life. It could not be recklessness because you have to defend yourself.”
He compared the deaths to those of innocent people killed in American-led wars in the Middle East, accusing the international community of hypocrisy on the issue of civilian casualties.
He said: “Just like [when] the United States and the rest of the countries bomb a village, you intend to kill the militants but you kill in the process the children there…Why is it collateral damage to the West and for us, it’s murder?”
Mr Duterte dismissed criticism from the international community and human rights groups, saying he did not “give a sh*t”.
He said: “I do not care about what the human rights guys say. I have a duty to preserve the [next] generation. If it involves human rights, I don’t give a shit.”
“There can be no ramifications if I say 'I will kill you if you destroy my land'. It is a legitimate statement”.
Earlier this year, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Duterte must put a stop to the “wave of extrajudicial executions and killings” and ensure legal process was upheld.
“Claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve the government from its international legal obligations and do not shield State actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings,” said Agnes Callamard, the new UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions.
Despite the alarm of the international community, Mr Duterte remains hugely popular in the Philippines, with an current approval rating of 86 per cent.
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