ON HOLD: President Rodrigo Duterte.
ON HOLD: President Rodrigo Duterte. EPA/PPD

Duterte switches focus to cops

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has suspended his violent war on drugs to allow police units in the Philippines time to root out corruption within their own ranks.

Police chief Ronald dela Rosa confirmed his officers would no longer focus on arresting and charging suspected drug traffickers and users and said specialised anti-drug units would be dissolved within days.

More than 7000 people have been killed in the campaign since Mr Duterte assumed power in June, many without proper trial, prompting outrage from Western nations and human rights groups.

The furore led to a slump in relations between the Philippines and the US and the EU.

A South Korean businessman, Jee Ick-joo, was kidnapped and killed by drug squad officers in October under the pretence of a drug raid, and the ongoing inquiry forced the President to admit the national police force was "corrupt to the core”.

He estimated 40% of the force was involved in illicit dealings.

"We will cleanse our ranks,” Mr dela Rosa told reporters in Manila. "Then maybe after that, we can resume our war on drugs.

"To all the rogue cops: beware! We no longer have a war on drugs. We now have a war on scallywags.”

Human Rights Watch believes the suspension is a publicity stunt, and called on Mr Duterte to end his deadly campaign. - INM

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