In late January of 2017, the highest police official in city of Manila in the Philippines announced that the police would no longer be participating in the country’s violent drug war — at least until after rogue officers have purged from the department. However, this announcement by the police is at odds with the statement made by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte earlier that day, which dictates that the war on drugs would continue until the last day of his term, causing people to question whether or not an end to the violence was actually on the horizon.
Since Duterte came to power, more than three thousand people have been killed by vigilantes or the police — and more generous estimates place the death count significantly higher. While certain human rights watchdog organizations have voiced the opinion that these extrajudicial killings were ordered by the police, officials have denied the validity of this assertion.
Ronald dela Rosa, the commanding officer for the Philippine National Police, stated during a news conference that the country’s Drug Enforcement Agency would be given authority over drug related cases. Mr. dela Rosa warned rogue cops that they had better watch their step, stating that the force was interested in cleaning house and purging officers who engaged in bad behavior. While there were calls to fire the police chief, the chief is one of Duterte’s loyal allies, and therefore is protected by the President.
According to Mr. dela Rosa, there would be a month-long suspension, during which the police’s anti-drug units would be dissolved. The anti-drug units include about 120,000 officers, but these units would be overhauled after being dissolved. According to Mr. dela Rosa, internal orders had already been issued to create lists of those rogue officers who should be removed from their positions.
Earlier that day, Duterte rejected the claim that the officers were acting in compliance with orders, stating that certain rogue officers had used the false pretext of the drug war to commit crimes. Duterte claimed that big-time drug dealers had emerged in the country due to the unscrupulous actions of corrupt police officers that misused official warrants. However, no evidence or source was provided for these claims.
Certain people remain skeptical, questioning whether or not the suspension was just a public exercise to save face, while providing very little substantive change beneath the surface. Amnesty International condemned the action in a press release, stating that they did not believe the solution amended the root of the problem.
Duterte vowed to take a tough stance of crime during his campaign, making disturbing promises, such as a commitment to kill one hundred thousand criminals during his first half year in office. However, he has admitted that he may have underestimated the drug problem, stating that he would continue his war on drugs until he leaves office in 2022.
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