PILI , Philippines, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he once threw kidnapping suspects from a helicopter and would do the same to corrupt government officials, comments a spokesman called an urban legend.
Dutere's remarks came as he announced a package of financial aid relief on Tuesday to Camarines Sur province, devastated by Typhoon Nina.
"If you are corrupt I will fetch you with a helicopter and I will throw you out on the way to Manila. I have done that before, why should I not do it again?" he said.
The comment was a reference to anyone who might attempt to steal the financial aid he promised the devastated province. Duterte, known for hyperbole and confrontational comments, told a story of throwing an alleged kidnapper from a helicopter, in which he ordered the pilot to fly at a certain altitude so the victim's splatter would not be noticed.
It was not immediately clear when or where the helicopter incident occurred. Duterte's spokesman, Ernesto Abella, suggested it may not have actually happened, telling reporters, "Let's just say, 'urban legend.'"
On Thursday, Duterte backpedaled from his boast, saying in an interview, "Helicopter, to throw a person? And if that is true, I will not admit it."
Duterte, since his inauguration in June, has made efforts against corruption and drug trafficking his primary domestic concentration. The drug war has led to charges that thousands have died at the hands of police and vigilante groups.
Duterte said in an interview last month he personally killed three men while mayor of Davao City. While presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said afterward that the blunt comments should be taken "seriously but not literally," Duterte has outraged the international community with suggestions he condones, and has participated in, extrajudicial killings.