Duterte admits slow start to anti-drug drive

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President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at the 120th founding anniversary of the Department of Justice.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 26) — The President admitted his administration's campaign against illegal drugs did not begin immediately after taking office.

"Two months into my term... First two months, hindi pa kami nag-operate kasi kapa ako ng kapa: sino ba dito sa Metro Manila ang corrupt?" President Rodrigo Duterte said at the 120th anniversary celebration of the Justice Department Tuesday.

[Translation: Two months into my term, we were not operating yet because I was still copping a feel: which people in Metro Manila are corrupt?]

Duterte referred to police officials involved in the illegal drug trade.

"I almost became a liar because I said I will finish the job in three to six months. But when I became the president and when I had access to information. Anak ng.. nine generals of the police were involved," he added.

The President said the slow start of the war on drugs would explain why the drug-related killings that happened in the early part of his term were not perpetrated by the administration.

"Sinong pumatay? Hindi pa nga ako nag-o-operate eh. So hindi ko sinasabi 'yung police generals, it would not be right because I do not have the evidence but most likely the persons interested in doing (them away)… a group na gusto 'yang mawala sila," he said.

[Translation: Who killed the drug addicts? I wasn't operating yet. I'm not saying the police generals, it would not be right because I do not have the evidence but most likely the persons interested in doing (them away), a group that wants them gone.]

The Duterte administration's war on drugs was met with criticism from various local and international bodies over supposed human rights violations. The United Nations (UN) expressed its concern on the spate of killings in the country.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano addressed the UN assembly on Sept. 22, and said the drug war is a "necessary instrument" to preserve and protect the rights of Filipinos.

According to the police, there were 3,811 drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations from July 2016 to August this year.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producer Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.