Launched a year ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs has resulted in thousands of deaths, yet the street price of crystal methamphetamine in Manila has fallen and surveys show Filipinos are as anxious as ever about crime.

Duterte took power on June 30 last year, vowing to halt the drug abuse and lawlessness he saw as "symptoms of virulent social disease."

Thanks to his campaign, government officials say, crime has dropped, thousands of drug dealers are behind bars, a million users have registered for treatment, and future generations of Filipinos are being protected from the scourge of drugs.

"There are thousands of people who are being killed, yes," said Oscar Albayalde, Metro Manila's police chief told Reuters. "But there are millions who live, see?"

A growing chorus of critics, however, including human rights activists, lawyers and the country's influential Catholic Church, dispute the authorities' claims of success.

They say police have summarily executed drug suspects with impunity, terrorizing poorer communities and exacerbating the very lawlessness they were meant to tackle.

"This president behaves as if he is above the law - that he is the law," wrote Amado Picardal, an outspoken Filipino priest, in a recent article for a Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines publication. "He has ignored the rule of law and human rights."

The drug war's exact death toll is hotly disputed, with critics saying the toll is far above the 5,000 that police have identified as either drug-related killings, or suspects shot dead during police operations.

Most victims are small-time users and dealers, while the masterminds behind the lucrative drug trade are largely unknown and at large, say critics of Duterte's ruthless methods.

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Thumbnail: Philippines exclusion CC Luc Forsyth