MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he would recall police to fight his drug war, a month after he withdrew them and denounced the force as “corrupt to the core”.
“I need more men and I have to call back the police again,” Rodrigo Duterte told reporters, adding he had instructed his police chief to find young officers who were not corrupt to join anti-drug groups.
“At yesterday’s command conference I ordered (him) to recruit young men in the Philippine National Police who are imbued with the fervour of patriotism,” he said.
Duterte won presidential elections last year after promising to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.
Since then, police have reported killing more than 2,550 people, while more than 4,000 others have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures.
Duterte had been unrepentant in the face of widespread international criticism of the drug war, including accusations the police were murdering people for their own gain and organising anonymous vigilante death squads.
Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly promised to shield police from prosecution if they were charged with murder for killing in the drug war.
But he was forced to change tack after an official investigation found anti-drug officers kidnapped a South Korean businessman late last year, then murdered him at the national police headquarters as part of an extortion racket.
“You policemen are the most corrupt. You are corrupt to the core. It’s in your system,” Duterte said on January 30, before announcing all police had been pulled off the drug war until their ranks had been “cleansed”.
Duterte said then nearly 40 percent of the police force engaged in illegal activities.
Duterte handed the campaign over to the much smaller Drug Enforcement Agency, with support from the military.
The national police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, said on Monday that gains in the drug war had been lost because his force had been withdrawn.
“The longer we are not in the war on drugs, the situation gets worse,” Dela Rosa said.
Global rights monitor Amnesty International released a report on February 1 warning that the killings in the drug war may amount to a crime against humanity.
It accused police of fatally shooting defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed or the victims’ kin.
Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday warned police who were sacked for corruption they would be killed if they resorted to drug dealing.
“If you make a mistake you will die. That’s for sure. Your wife will be widowed,” he said, referring to those who would be dismissed.