Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says that he stabbed someone to death during his teenage years.
“Jail? Jeez. When I was a teenager, I was in and out of jail,” he said Friday in a mixture of English and Tagalog, according to CNN.
“One fight there, another here – at the age of 16, I killed someone,” Duterte added. “A person, really.”
“During a fight. Stabbing. That was when I was 16 years old, because we just looked at each other.”
Duterte was addressing Filipino expatriates in Da Nang, Vietnam ahead of his Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meetings with regional leaders.
The Philippine president used the story to illustrate that he is unafraid of going to jail while referencing human rights criticisms of his policies.
Duterte added that his approach to the Philippines’ war on drugs parallels the one from his youth.
“[It’s] even more so as president,” he said. “You f—k with my countrymen, I won’t let you off the hook. Never mind about the human rights advocates.”
Harry Roque, who is Duterte’s spokesman, downplayed the seriousness of the Philippine president’s remarks in a text to CNN Philippines.
“I think it was in jest,” he said. “The president uses colorful language when with Pinoys overseas.”
Duterte’s hardline policies on illegal drugs have sparked criticism from human rights advocates who have accused his government of extrajudicial killings.
The controversial measures have seen thousands of suspected drug users and dealers killed by police and vigilantes in the Philippines.
Duterte suggested in 2015 before becoming his nation’s leader that he had “maybe” killed someone in a stabbing when he was 17.
“There was a tumultuous fight in the beach,” he told the Philippines edition of Esquire.
“We were young men then and we went to this beach and we were drinking and suddenly there was this … maybe I stabbed somebody to death … something like that.”
Duterte has frequently made headlines for his outspoken remarks, and he has claimed to have personally killed people in the past.