Raffy Alunan: Duterte knows he can't set deadline on drug war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1) — President Rodrigo Duterte knows that he could not set a deadline on his war against illegal drugs, a senatorial candidate he endorsed said.

"He's a politico. He's been there and done that and he really knows that he really cannot impose deadlines," former Interior Secretary Rafael "Raffy" Alunan III told CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday.

Alunan, who was also one of Duterte's senatorial candidates when he ran for president in 2016, said the President "just wanted to express the urgency of the matter" when he said he would end illegal drugs in three to six months.

The former Interior chief added that it is difficult to put a deadline on ending the illegal drug trade as it is a "big social problem."

"It's work in progress. That's all l can say because we're up against human nature. Criminality is, you know, the drug syndicates are based abroad. You know, it's very, very hard to smash a drug syndicate where the home base is in another country," Alunan said.

Despite the billions of pesos of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) being smuggled into the Philippines and millions of pesos of cocaine found floating on the country's shores, Alunan said he is not disappointed with how the Duterte administration has waged the drug war.

He said those incidents just show the extent of corruption in the Philippines, which is why he is pushing for the reimposition of the death penalty.

Just a year into his term, Duterte admitted that he was wrong to put a six-month deadline on eradicating illegal drugs in the country. He conceded that he underestimated the gravity of the drug problem, having only benchmarked his approach in his hometown of Davao City.

Recently, Duterte claimed that there are 7 to 8 million drug users in the country – a number which is significantly higher from earlier government estimates that pegged the number at around 4 million.

While the government has said that the drug war is working, as evidenced by the opinion of a majority of Filipinos that the number of drug addicts in their area has decreased, the Philippine National Police said that it will change their strategy in combating drugs following Duterte's new estimate.

Government numbers show that over 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in legitimate anti-drug stings, but local and international rights groups peg the number higher.

The International Criminal Court is conducting a preliminary examination into possible crimes against humanity in the drug war.