Duterte says only empty tribal schools would be bombed

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says his threat to launch airstrikes against tribal schools because they allegedly teach subversion would apply only when the buildings are empty, a clarification that still raised concern he was advocating a war crime.

Critics had asked Duterte to retract his earlier threat, saying government troops may use it as a pretext to attack indigenous, or Lumad, schools and communities. He had claimed the schools were teaching students to become communist rebels and were operating without government permits.

Duterte responded to a question about his threat at a news conference late Thursday by saying the bombings will be done at night.

Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch says bombing unoccupied schools still violates International Humanitarian Law and is a war crime.