MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday challenged his critics to prove the government's anti-illegal drug campaign has claimed more than 20,000 lives.
"20,000 deaths? It does not say where did it happen? What actually happened? How did it happen? When? Where? Wala," he said in a speech during the unveiling of the marker of Mella Hotel in Las Piñas City.
"Maybe the 4,100 plus. Sabi ng pulis, they killed . . . they were killed because they offered to resist violently. Then I take full responsibility for it."
Official estimates from the Philippine National Police (PNP) put the death toll at 4,814 as of August 2018.
The police also recorded some 23,000 homicide cases under investigation (HCUIs).
After assuming the presidency, Duterte had said the Philippines could expect more than 20,000 deaths in the war on illegal drugs.
In his speech, the President also warned drug suspects to stop their involvement in the illegal trade.
"If you want these killings stopped, if you want to live peacefully, if you are afraid of EJK [extrajudicial killing], there’s only one simple thing that you have to do. Just drop it and it will end tomorrow, I assure you," he said.