Manila (Web Desk): Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that he had personally killed suspected criminals when he was mayor of a southern city to set an example for police.

Duterte made the comments in a speech to businessmen as he discussed his campaign to eradicate illegal drugs, which has seen police and unknown assailants kill thousands of people since he became president on June 30.

After speaking about police killing suspects during the current crime war, Duterte said he led similar efforts when he was mayor of Davao, the major southern city that he ruled for most of the previous 20 years.

“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys (police) that if I can do it why can’t you,” Duterte said in his speech at the presidential palace. “And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”

Duterte, 71, also responded to criticism from human rights groups and US President Barack Obama about his anti-crime tactics, vowing he would not be intimidated by their criticism into stopping. “Sorry, I am not about to do that,” he said.

According to media reports, Duterte has variously denied and acknowledged involvement in the death squads.