President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday admitted that he stayed awake during international conferences by using marijuana, a banned substance in the country that is reeling from the rising death toll of his bloody war on drugs.
The President, however, told reporters later that his assertion was a joke.
In a speech, the President complained about the punishing schedule of last month's summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Singapore, where he created a buzz for skipping four meetings and a gala dinner to take power naps.
He said he had to rise early and attend a flurry of sessions during the summit.
"It's a killing activity and I think my age … me, not that much, because I take marijuana to stay awake. Others may no longer take it," the 73-year-old leader said in Malacañang.
A few of his audience during the awarding ceremonies for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Organizing Council chuckled at the admission of the President, whose brutal crackdown on drugs has claimed thousands of lives and stirred international furor.
The President has openly admitted his support for medical marijuana.
Marijuana is at the top of the list of dangerous drugs under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
'Shaking a tree'
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have introduced a measure to legalize medical marijuana in the country.
An hour after his speech, the President tried to play down his admission.
"It was a joke, of course it was a joke," he told reporters later. "Nobody can stop me from just doing my style … It's too late to change. If I want to joke, I will joke."
"If you take that seriously, you're stupid," he added. "Why do you really believe I smoke marijuna?"
The President said it was his way of "shaking a tree" in the middle of a boring event.
The President had admitted before taking the powerful opioid fentanyl.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III corroborated the President's statement.
"The President told me just now that he has never touched marijuana his entire life," he said
Asked about the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao, the President said there's no decision yet on the matter.
"It might be during the Cabinet [meeting on Tuesday] after the pot session so we can think clearly," he said in jest.
In his speech, the President said ASEAN summits for heads of states should focus only on "urgent and immediate concerns"' of member-countries, and leave technical details to ministerial meetings and technical working groups.
The sessions, he added, should be limited to four a day, instead of a flurry of meetings held every 30 minutes.
The President also complained about the bland food served during the summit.