DAVAO CITY , Philippines, Sept. 19 (UPI) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for six more months for his campaign against illegal drugs.
He has been accused of encouraging the extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug dealers and users since he assumed the presidency in June, and Saturday said he was not aware of the severity of the drug problem until he became president.
“The problem is, I cannot kill them all, even if I wanted to. I did not have any idea that there were hundreds of thousands of people already in the drug business and what makes it worse is that they are operated now by people in government, especially those elected positions … just give me a little extension of another six months,” he said.
Saturday Duterte turned over a list of 1,000 officials allegedly involved in illegal drug dealing to the Philippine military, which has been aiding the Philippine National Police in implementing the campaign. It came two days after Edgar Matobato, a self-described hit man, testified before a senate committee and said he was part of a death squad hunting drug dealers under Duterte’s orders, when Duterte was mayor of Davao City from 1988 to 1998 and again from 2001 to 2008.
The relentless campaign against drugs has brought criticism that Duterte and the police have exceeded their authority. The activist group Human Rights Watch said the Philippines needs an independent investigation into whether Duterte has a role in the extrajudicial killings.