Philippines Police Chief Says He Will Suspend Participation in Drug War During Purge of Corrupt Officers

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, left, with Ronald dela Rosa, the national police chief, during a news conference in Manila on Monday. (Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

The top police official in the Philippines said Monday that he would suspend police participation in the nation’s bloody drug war while he conducted a purge of rogue officers.

But President Rodrigo Duterte said earlier on Monday that the crackdown would continue until “the last day of my term,” raising questions about whether a suspension would do anything to halt the violence.

At least 3,600 people, and possibly thousands more, have been killed by the police or by vigilantes since Mr. Duterte came to power. Human rights groups have said the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers and users may have been ordered by the police, a charge officials have denied.

The head of the Philippine National Police, Ronald dela Rosa, said at a news conference on Monday that the Drug Enforcement Agency would instead have the authority to pursue drug cases. He was responding to criticism after a South Korean businessman was strangled at Police Headquarters last year by officers who later extorted ransom money from his family under the pretense that he was alive.

“Ready yourselves, you bad cops,” Mr. dela Rosa said. “We no longer have a war on drugs, but we now have a war on scalawags. We will clean house now.”

His order came hours after President Duterte rejected calls to fire the police chief, who is one of his most loyal allies.

Mr. dela Rosa said the suspension would last about a month, during which the antidrug units in the police, which has about 120,000 officers, would be dissolved and overhauled. He said he had already ordered the internal affairs service to submit a list of rogue police officers who had been cleared and for their cases to be reviewed again. He said that the purge would start in the capital, Manila, and the main island of Luzon.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Felipe Villamor