Duterte temporarily suspends drug war to tackle police corruption

Manila, Jan 30 (IANS) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has temporarily suspended his “drug war” to focus on eliminating corruption in the police force following the death of a South Korean businessman at the national police headquarters in Manila, the media reported on Monday.

“We have to focus our efforts towards internal cleansing,” Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said in a speech at Camp Crame in Quezon city, adding that when this had been carried out the president would then instruct the police to go back to the war on drugs, Efe news reported.

“But right now, no more drug operations,” he said.

Dela Rosa made the comment after Duterte on Sunday slammed the Philippine National Police as “corrupt to the core”, and he promised to focus police efforts on “cleansing” the force by conducting a thorough investigation to identify agents involved in illegal activities.

However, the President said that after tackling police corruption, his drug war will continue until the end of his term in 2022, and not just for a year as he had previously planned.

Since Duterte’s arrival in power in June 2016, his campaign has led to more than 7,000 drug-related deaths, including 2,527 at the hands of the police in alleged clashes with suspects, according to data released last week.

The new announcement comes as a result of the scandal over the case of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, who was killed three months ago.

On October 18, several individuals took Jee and his housemaid from his home in Angeles city, about 100 km north of Manila, in an alleged anti-drug operation.

Both were taken to Camp Crame, where they released the housemaid, but the South Korean was strangled that day, according to the investigation.

The case, whose investigation in the Senate began on January 26, has generated a great deal of controversy by demonstrating the climate of impunity generated by the president’s anti-drug campaign.