President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday that he was overwhelmed to find out that the Philippines’s problem with illegal drugs was more deeply rooted than he had expected and involved government officials.

Duterte, former mayor of Davao, said he initially thought the country’s narcotics situation was like that of his home city.

“When I first said I will fight drugs in six months, I thought it was like in Davao. You can either coerce, intimidate or bribe them, or give them money,” he said during his sixth and final State of the Nation Address.

Duterte revealed that he bribed Davao-based drug personalities to take their businesses elsewhere: “I said, ‘Lumabas kayo ng Davao. Doon kayo magkalat sa Luzon at sa ibang lugar, huwag dito sa Davao.’”

“Naniniwala naman ang mga ulol,” he quipped.

When he became president, Duterte said he ordered Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, whom he appointed as Philippine National Police chief, to look for the enemies within the ranks of the police.

“Kaya ‘yan ang masakit sa loob ko. I did not know that I was fighting my own government. Customs and everyone else were facilitating the importation of drugs,” Duterte said.

Duterte groaned that illegal drugs have remained easy to import until now.

“That is how we are fighting almost losing a battle against drugs,” he said.

Duterte also reiterated his threat to end the lives of those involved in the illegal drug trade.

“Those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you. Talagang yayariin kita because I love my country,” he said.

According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, in 200,632 anti-drug operations conducted from July 2016 to April 2020, 6,117 individuals were killed.

Duterte’s drug war, according to some human rights groups, has killed more than the official numbers. John Ezekiel J. Hirro