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Police to be 'cleansed' after murder scandal

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Duterte vows drug war will go on as anti-drug police units are suspended to rid them of corruption

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday described the police force prosecuting his deadly crime war as "corrupt to the core", but extended the crackdown until the last day of his term in 2022.

Mr Duterte announced his intention to "cleanse" the police force after a series of scandals in which officers were caught committing murder, extortion and robbery, using the drug war as cover.

"You policemen are the most corrupt. You are corrupt to the core. It is in your system," he told reporters as he railed against the anti-drug officers who allegedly masterminded the murder of a South Korean businessman inside the national police headquarters.

He said nearly 40 per cent of the police force engaged in illegal activities.

His comments came at a time when police chief Ronald Dela Rosa announced that all anti-drug units across the country would be suspended as the cleansing took place.

But critics have questioned the sincerity of Mr Duterte's outrage against corrupt police, asking why the police had been given such a free hand to kill in the name of the drug war if he knew so many were corrupt.

"How can a corrupt and fascist police force, where impunity is the norm, successfully stamp out criminal activities such as the illegal drug trade?" asked Mr Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bayan, a coalition of leftist activist groups.


Mr Duterte had repeatedly told the police during his election campaign and after assuming the presidency that he would shield them from prosecution if they killed as part of the war on crime.

You policemen are the most corrupt. You are corrupt to the core. It's in your system. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

He also told the police at Mr Dela Rosa's birthday party this month he would tolerate them engaging in illegal activities to earn "sideline" money, as long as that did not involve drugs.

Meanwhile, Mr Dela Rosa said they are suspending their anti-narcotics operation until they have cleansed their ranks of "scalawags".

"To all the rogue cops, beware. We no longer have a war on drugs. We now have a war on scalawags," he said.

His pronouncement came a few hours after he said he would disband anti-drugs units following the kidnapping and killing of businessman Jee Ick Joo in the national police headquarters in October.

"We will cleanse our ranks... then maybe after that, we can resume our war on drugs. The President told us to clean the organisation first," Mr Dela Rosa said.

"I don't know how long it will take to cleanse the police. But with each and every one of us cooperating, helping each other, maybe in a month, we can do it." - AFP, REUTERS