Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has requested a six-month extension of his “self-imposed” timeline to wipe out criminality and illegal drugs, acknowledging that he would not be able to meet his campaign promise.
“That self-imposed time of three to six months, well, I did not realize how severe and how serious the problem of drug menace in this Republic until I became President,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him telling reporters in southern Davao City late Sunday.
Duterte — who served as Davao City’s mayor for 22 years — made the comments during a press conference attended by a Norwegian who was released from the captivity of the Abu Sayyaf militant group Saturday after nearly a year.
Duterte won the May 9 election on a crime-fighting campaign, and has pledged to curb corruption and criminality within three to six months.
His campaign against illegal drugs has seen the killing of more than 3,000 suspects in less than three months — with 1,490 of the deaths under investigation as of Sept. 10 with authorities blaming suspected vigilante groups.
“Even if I want it to, I cannot kill them all because the last report would be this thick,” Duterte said Sunday, referring to his announcement Thursday that around 1,000 politicians and public officials were included on his new list of suspects involved in the illegal trade.
“Just give me a little extension of maybe of another six months. Because I never have that idea of hundreds of thousands of people in the drug business,” he added. “And what makes it worst is, they are now operated by people in government, especially those elected officials.”
More than 700,000 people have surrendered since Duterte’s inauguration June 30, including the mayor of Albuera town in the central province of Leyte, who the president ordered to turn himself in to police or be “shot on sight” last month.
Rights groups, the United Nations and the United States have expressed concern about reported extrajudicial killings taking place in the Philippines under the campaign.