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"At 16, I killed someone," he told Filipinos in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang, where he is attending a regional summit. He said he stabbed the person "just over a look".
His spokesman later said his remarks had been "in jest".
Mr Duterte has previously said he killed criminal suspects as mayor of the city of Davao.
The Filipino leader is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, alongside regional leaders and US President Donald Trump.
He has presided over a massive crackdown on crime in the Philippines, which critics allege undermines fundamental human rights.
Mr Duterte has encouraged extrajudicial killings of those involved in the drugs trade, and said he would "be happy to slaughter" three million drug addicts in the country.
Addressing the Filipino community in Da Nang, he said he had killed a person during his violent teenage years, when he said he was in numerous fights and "in and out of jail".
But a spokesman for the president, Harry Roque, told the AFP news agency that the remarks were "in jest" and the Filipino leader often used "colourful language" when addressing Filipinos overseas.
Mr Duterte has previously said he may have killed someone when a teenager. In 2015 he told the Philippines edition of Esquire magazine that that during "a tumultuous fight in the beach" when he was 17, "maybe I stabbed somebody to death".
It is not clear if he was referring to the same incident in his speech.
Speaking about human rights during his Vietnam visit, Mr Duterte proposed a "world summit" on the issue - but not looking solely at human rights abuses in the Philippines.
"What makes the death of people in the Philippines more important than the rest of the children in the world that were massacred and killed?" the Manila Bulletin quoted him as saying.
Since he took office, police say they have killed almost 4,000 people in anti-drug operations. More than 2,000 others have been killed in connection with drug-related crimes.
In September, the budget for the human rights commission investigating the deaths was cut to 1,000 pesos - the equivalent of $20 (£15). It had asked for 1.72bn pesos ($34m).