It was just a joke, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said after telling an official gathering in Manila that he takes marijuana.
Duterte, who’s presiding over a war against illegal drugs that has killed thousands, said in a speech to honor government officials involved in organizing Asean meetings that the tight schedule of international gatherings was a “killing activity.”
“I had to take marijuana to stay awake,” he said in the local language, putting his right thumb and forefinger near his mouth. He skipped several events at the Asean summit in Singapore to take naps.
Duterte said he wasn’t alone, as other leaders were falling asleep during last month’s summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings last month.
After his speech, he told reporters that he was just kidding so the crowd won’t get bored. “Do you really believe that I really smoke marijuana?” he asked.
In December 2016, the now 73-year-old leader admitted that he took Fentanyl — a potent opioid medication — to relieve his daily migraines and spinal pains. He denied being addicted to the painkiller.
“Of course it was a joke but nobody can stop me from just doing my style,” Duterte told reporters on Monday, more than an hour after his speech. “Sometimes you say I’m a misogynist when I joke but that’s my style. It’s too late to change. If I want to joke I will joke and if you believe me, then you’re a fool.”
The use and sale of marijuana, also known as cannabis, is illegal under Philippine law. Duterte’s drug war has killed at least 4,000 people, based on police records but human rights groups allege the fatalities are three times more than that.
Bloomberg’s Cecilia Yap contributed to this report.
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