MANILA — The Philippine president said Sunday that he may need to extend a bloody government antidrug campaign that has left more than 3,000 people dead and been slammed by the United States and others.
Acknowledging for the first time that he may not be able to keep his campaign promise to eradicate illegal drugs in no more than six months, President Rodrigo Duterte said in jest that with the huge number of people involved, ‘‘even if I wanted to, I cannot kill them all.’’
Duterte said at a news conference in the southern city of Davao that he was overwhelmed by the size of the problem and may need to extend his self-imposed deadline by another six months to end the scourge.
He won the May 9 election on an ambitious promise to end corruption and crime, especially illegal drugs, in three to six months.
More than 3,000 suspected drug dealers and traffickers have been killed in Duterte’s campaign against drugs since he assumed the presidency in June, and 600,000 others, mostly drug users, have surrendered to authorities for fear they may be killed.
A law enforcement investigation, however, has turned up more names of people who may be involved in the illegal drug trade, including many village leaders and mayors, Duterte said.
President Obama, UN officials, and human rights groups have raised concerns over the widespread extrajudicial killings, but Duterte said the critics are impeding his battle.