The Philippines’ law enforcement agency has put a stop to its anti-narcotics campaign until its ranks have been cleansed of rogue officers.
“To all the rogue cops, beware! We no longer have a war on drugs. We now have a war on scalawags,” the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Director-General Ronald dela Rosa told a news conference on Sunday.
“We will cleanse our ranks… then maybe after that, we can resume our war on drugs. The president told us to clean the organization first,” Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa’s announcement came following the kidnapping and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo by rogue officers in the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte said he was “embarrassed” that anti-drugs officers had abused their power to engage in kidnapping, leading to the death by strangulation of Jee on the grounds of the national police headquarters.
But while the police chief said the war on drugs was being halted, President Duterte said he was extending the war on drugs to the end of his term in office even as he described the police forces as “corrupt.”
“You policemen are the most corrupt. You are corrupt to the core. It’s in your system,” Duterte told reporters on Monday.
Duterte said nearly 40 percent of the police force engaged in illegal activities.
During his presidential election campaign in mid-2016, Duterte ran mainly on a platform of fighting drugs and crime. Back then, he promised to eradicate illicit drugs until March 2017.
In his Monday remarks, however, he said that timeline did not apply anymore.
“I will extend it to the last day of my term,” Duterte said.
His term ends in 2022.
The anti-drug campaign in the Philippines has been a source of global alarm.
Rights groups accused Duterte of turning a blind eye to a wave of alleged extrajudicial killings by police, mostly of low-level peddlers. Police denied having carried out such killings.
Thousands of people have been killed in the campaign against drugs since it started on June 30 last year. According to police figures, about 2,000 drug suspects have been killed in security operations, while nearly 4,000 others have died in unexplained circumstances linked to the crackdown, according to media.