Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the military's Camp Tecson to talk to soldiers in San Miguel, Bulacan in northern Philippines September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro(reuters_tickers)
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he needed six more months for his war on drugs, saying he only realized how bad the country's narcotics problem was after taking office over two months ago.
Duterte, a former crime-busting mayor of the southern city of Davao, won the presidency in May promising to suppress crime and wipe out drugs and drug dealers in three to six months.
More than 3,500 people - or about 47 per day - have been killed in the past 10 weeks, some 58 percent by unknown assailants and the rest in legitimate police operations against illegal drugs, according to local police.
"I did not realise how severe and how serious the problem of drug menace in this republic was until I became president," Duterte said in a media briefing in Davao.
He said there were "hundreds of thousands of people already in the drug business" now, some of them working in government.
"We would need time to put everything in order. Give me a little extension, maybe of another six months," he said.
Duterte has lambasted the United Nations and the United States, which have criticized the surge in killings in the Philippines since he launched his anti-drugs campaign.
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Tom Heneghan)