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MANILA (Reuters) - Satisfaction in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs declined in the first quarter this year, a survey showed on Wednesday, with opinions split about police accounts that the drug suspects they killed had resisted arrest.
Seventy-eight percent of 1,200 people surveyed by Social Weather Stations (SWS) said they were satisfied by the government's crackdown on illegal drugs, down from 85 percent in a similar poll in December last year.
The number of dissatisfied respondents rose from eight percent to 12 percent.
Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence during legitimate operations.
Human rights monitors believe many of the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes - an accusation the police deny.
A Reuters special report published on Tuesday cited two senior law enforcement officials saying the police had received cash for executing drug suspects, planted evidence and had carried out most of the killings they had blamed on vigilantes.
Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.
The SWS survey on the anti-drugs campaign included questions on "extrajudicial killings", a term the government and police strongly object to, insisting no such killings have taken place.
The latest poll was conducted from March 25 to 28 and showed 73 percent of Filipinos were worried that they, or someone they know, would be a victim of extrajudicial killing.
Ninety-two percent said it was important authorities captured drug suspects alive rather than killed them.
About a fifth of respondents felt police were "probably" telling the truth about circumstances behind their killing of drug suspects, while 14 percent believed they were "definitely" lying.
Forty-four percent of respondents were undecided. Those who said they "definitely" believed police were truthful fell from nine percent in December to six percent in the latest survey.
"This is a black eye for the Philippine National Police," said Ramon Casiple, head of the Institute for Electoral and Police Reforms.
"I don't think this will impact on the president, it's more on the police whose members were seen and perceived to be more involved in crimes and in the killings. They should do more and convince the public about reforms not by words but by actions."
Asked by reporters about the fall in satisfaction rating for the anti-drugs campaign, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said: "There seems to be consistency in the way the public appreciates the efforts."
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel