Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has confessed his only political sin is ordering the killings of thousands of drug dealers without trial.
Duterte has long been criticised for his lawless approach to ridding his country of the menace of drugs.
Conservatives estimate at least 4,500 criminals have faced execution squads – but activists put the number near 12,000.
The president spoke out during a speech at his palace.
He slammed his critics and said: “I told the military, what is my fault? Did I steal even one peso?” said Duterte. “My only sin is the extrajudicial killings.”
Crimes against humanity
In the past Duterte has admitted he was aware of the killings but had not ordered them.
But the comments in his speech appear to be a major political slip.
The International Criminal Court is investigating allegations of state-sponsored murders in the Philippines as part of Duterte’s efforts to tackle his country’s mounting drugs problems as crimes against humanity.
To counter, Duterte has threatened to pull the Philippines out of the ICC jurisdiction to block the investigation.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: “This admission should erase any doubt about the culpability of the president.”
In a bid to lessen the impact of Duterte’s speech, his spokesman Harry Roque, said: “Duterte’s comments had been playful and should not be taken literally.”
Overstated drugs problem
The row threatens to rumble on as Duterte also used his speech to confirm his crusade against drugs would continue.
“It will not end,” he said. “As I have said, I will put on the table my life, the presidency. I can lose it any time. My honour.”
Duterte has also been accused of waging his anti-drug campaign before he won election in 2016 to the presidency.
As mayor of Davao before the election, his death squads purged the city of drug dealers and addicts, but official police statistics show Davao has the highest murder rate and second highest rape rate in the Philippines.
United Nations figures also show the drugs problem in the Philippines is inflated as the country has a low number of users compared with the global average.