Rodrigo Duterte NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

The president of the Philippines, who is under investigation for crimes against humanity, has admitted that his country is now a dicatatorship - but claims that it is in the best interests of his homeland.

Rodrigo Duterte was speaking at a dinner with former New People's Army rebels when he made the statements. Reacting to ongoing criticism that he is a dictator, he said: "Yes, it is true. I am a dictator. I have to be a dictator for the good of the country."

Since assuming office in June 2016, Duterte has attracted global condemnation for his deadly approach to crime and drugs, which has led to the deaths of 12,000 people, according to Human Rights Watch.

At the dinner, he promised the former rebels that his government would provide homes, jobs and education across the Philippines.

Since taking power, he has also shifted traditional alliances away from Europe and the US towards Russia and China.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague announced on Thursday (8 February) that it had opened a preliminary investigation into his war on drugs.

The investigation will look into whether crimes against humanity have been committed. It could lead to Duterte standing trial although observers say the likelihood of that is low.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensou said of the Philippines investigation: "While some killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extrajudicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations."

A spokesperson for Duterte said that the investigation would be a "waste of the court's time and resources".

The preliminary investigation is expected to take several years.