(CNN) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech Sunday that the rights of the LGBT community would be protected during his presidency, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).
“Let me just say thank you for the celebration, and you have my guarantee that everybody, at least during my term, will be protected and nurtured as a human being,” Duterte said at an LGBT conference in Davao City on Sunday, according to the PNA.
“There will be no oppression and we will recognize your importance in society,” he added.
Duterte, a controversial leader and firebrand who has been accused of human rights abuses, was elected in 2016 largely because of his zero-tolerance stance toward drug use in the country.
As a result of his war on drugs, thousands of suspected drug users and dealers have been killed by both police and vigilantes. Duterte admitted last month to having killed someone when he was a teenager, and has said previously that he killed suspected criminals during his time as mayor of Davao City.
On Sunday, the strongman President would accept an LGBT nominee for a position in his administration, PNA reported, and gave the LGBT community until the second week of January to nominate a representative to his Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.
“I’d like a gay there somewhere,” Duterte said, according to PNA, “or a lesbian.”
Duterte’s statement appears to be a reversal from statements he’s previously made regarding LGBT rights in the Philippines.
According to CNN Philippines, in March he told Filipinos in Myanmar he was against same-sex marriage, and that recognizing marriages other than those between a man and a woman wouldn’t be acceptable in Philippines, which is predominantly Catholic.