MANILA - (UPDATED) On the order of President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa on Monday disbanded the police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) following the death of a Korean businessman at the hands of rogue cops.
"Starting today, I have dissolved the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, all anti-drugs units from the national to the police station level... Lahat iyan, dissolved, deactivated," Dela Rosa said during a flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crame.
The PNP chief also announced the suspension of all police efforts to combat the narcotics trade.
This comes after President Rodrido Duterte vowed to abolish the AIDG, saying he was embarrassed that anti-drugs officers had abused their power to engage in kidnapping, leading to the death by strangulation of Jee Ick-joo, inside the national police headquarters.
Duterte said other suspects were still at large and gave them 48 hours to turn themselves in, or have a dead-or-alive bounty on their heads of P5 million, for which he would prefer them dead.
Dela Rosa meanwhile said the breakup of anti-drugs units was necessary to rebuild them.
"We will dissolve all anti-drugs units in the police," he said at a joint news conference with Duterte, when asked if he would overhaul the police.
"I will do my job to the best of my ability I hope I will not fail the president and the Filipino people."
More than 7,000 people have been killed since Duterte, nicknamed "the punisher," unleashed his bloody crackdown seven months ago, some 2,250 in police operations and the rest still mostly under investigation.
Police say many of those so far unsolved could be the work of vigilantes or inter-gang drugs violence.
The campaign has caused alarm in the West and rights groups accuse Duterte of turning a blind eye to a wave of extrajudicial killings by police, mostly of low-level peddlers. Police deny that and say the killings are in self-defense.
Duterte said police who had been subject of internal investigations should be reassigned to work in conflict zones.
Fighting drugs and crime was the key platform of Duterte's election campaign, during which he promised to eradicate illegal drugs within six months.
He said he underestimated the depth of problem, and on Sunday promised the crackdown would continue to the end of his six-year presidency, and criticism would not stop him.
-- With reports from Henry Atuelan, DZMM; Reuters