U.N. chief condemns Duterte's 'apparent endorsement' of killings

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L) and President-elect Rodrigo Duterte

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's "apparent endorsement" of extrajudicial killings.

Ban said in a statement Wednesday he is "extremely disturbed" by Duterte’s recent remarks regarding attacks against Filipino journalists.

"I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms. Such comments are of particular concern in light of ongoing impunity for serious cases of violence against journalists in the Philippines," Ban said.

The U.N. chief also pledged to continue to stand up for the rights of journalists.

Ban made the statement during the U.N. Correspondents Association Directory Reception on Wednesday. It followed Duterte's controversial remarks on the killing of corrupt journalists.

Duterte said corrupt journalists were to be blamed if they were killed.

Prior to Ban's statement, U.N. special rapporteurs criticized Duterte for his statements on the killing of journalists. Duterte defended himself, saying their statements were based on the wrong premise. He also denied saying corrupt journalists deserve to die.

"I never said that killing journalists is justified because they are involved in corruption," he said in a statement Wednesday.

“I do not condone nor tolerate killing of journalists regardless of the motive of the killers or the reason for their killing,” Duterte said. “My duty as President is to uphold and enforce the law and I will pursue and prosecute these killers to the hilt in accordance with law, and I will be — as I have been — protective of the rights of journalists, and for that matter of any citizen, of the Republic.”

Before Ban issued his statement against Duterte, the incoming president had already criticized the United Nations for failing to stop killings in the Middle East and Africa.

He also said the U.N. should not force its “code of conduct” on him. “I never signed anything which says I have to behave … in this manner or in that manner," he said.

During the election campaign, Duterte also slammed the U.N. for “bamboozling us to obey,” climate change agreements while failing to impose sanctions on industrialized countries that have caused greater damage on the environment.

Duterte has also been accused by human rights groups of having links with vigilante death squads that assassinated criminal suspects during his decades-long stint as mayor of Davao City.