Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte to allow military role in Philippine drug war, calls it national security threat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 1:48pm

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced Thursday the military would take a leading role in his deadly drug war, while vowing to kill more traffickers and addicts.

The mercurial leader ruled out declaring martial law and said he did not need extra powers, but wanted to bring the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) into his drugs war because he could no longer trust law enforcement agencies.

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“I’m taking in the AFP and raising the issue of drugs as a national security threat so that I will call on all the armed forces to assist,” Duterte said, while promising to kill more “son of a bitch” drug addicts.

His comments were the first following a report from Amnesty International that the killings in the drug war, in which more than 6,500 people have died in seven months, may amount to crimes against humanity.

They were also the clearest signal of Duterte’s plans for the drug war, after he admitted this week the police force that had taken the leading role was “corrupt to the core” and said they would no longer be allowed to take part.

The former city mayor said the police and the justice ministry-run National Bureau of Investigation could not be relied upon and promised “a cleansing, a purge”.

Duterte did not say what the remit of the military would be in the drugs campaign, or give any indication of the number of troops that would be involved, but said they were necessary.

Duterte’s moves against the police he had entrusted as his frontline troops came after series of scandals emerged over the past month in which police were caught committing murder, kidnapping, extortion and robbery using the drug war as cover.

In one of the highest-profile cases, anti-drug officers kidnapped a South Korean businessman then murdered him inside the national police headquarters as part of an extortion racket, according to an official investigation.

Then Amnesty on Wednesday accused police of systemic human rights abuses in the drug war, including shooting dead defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed.

It also said police were being paid by their superiors to kill, and documented victims as young as eight years old.

“The police are behaving like the criminal underworld that they are supposed to be enforcing the law against,” Amnesty said as it warned of possible crimes against humanity and that the International Criminal Court may need to investigate.

However Duterte was unrepentant on Thursday as he launched a profanity-laced tirade against his critics and rejected charges of human rights abuses.

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He gave a lengthy explanation of the problems for people who used the highly addictive methamphetamine known locally as shabu.

“And you bleed for those son of a bitch(s),” he said, adding that roughly 3,000 had been killed so far.

“I will kill more. If only to get rid of drugs.”

Police have reported killing 2,555 people in the drug war, while nearly 4,000 others have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Thursday involving the military was the wrong move because the armed forces had a track record of extrajudicial killings, particularly where Communist rebels were concerned.

“Using military personnel for civilian policing anywhere heightens the risk of unnecessary or excessive force and inappropriate military tactics,” the rights group said.

“But there is also a deeply rooted culture of impunity for military abuses in the Philippines.”

Agence France-Presse, Reuters