President Rodrigo Duterte spoke too soon about cleansing the Philippines’ illegal drug problem and has realized that the issue was more deeply rooted than expected, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

During his campaign for the presidency in 2016, Duterte made a stern promise to rid the country of illegal drugs and criminality within three to six months once he’s elected president.

“If I succeed perhaps that would be my greatest contribution to the country, but if I fail, kill me,” he said in January 2016.

Duterte is more than five years removed from assuming the presidency.

“Sinabi naman po talaga ni presidente na hindi niya akalain na mas malala ang problema pagdating sa droga noong siya po ay nangangampanya,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque told reporters on Wednesday.

“Na-realize po niya early on his term na talagang mas malalim at mas malala ang problema kaya nga po mas tumagal iyong pagsupil sa ipinagbabawal na droga,” he said.

Despite Duterte’s failed promise, Roque touted that 52 percent of Philippine villages had been cleared of illegal drugs, with 31 percent yet to be cleansed.

Roque said Duterte’s war on drugs was able to seize P49 billion worth of illegal drugs, arrest 293,841 individuals and 12,356 high-profile drug personalities, and dismantled 807 drug dens.

“Lahat po iyan, I think, are proper measurements kung matagumpay nga po itong war on drugs, and I would say it has been successful,” Roque said.

A report filed before the International Crime Court said there was reasonable basis to believe that Duterte’s drug war has violated human rights, but the president’s camp shrugged it off, claiming it was based on mere hearsay. John Ezekiel J. Hirro