MANILA - The Philippine police chief on Thursday warned an "idiot" policeman accused of kidnapping a South Korean businessman that he would die unless he surrendered.
The businessman disappeared from his home in the northern city of Angeles in October last year, with the kidnappers demanding a ransom for his release, authorities said.
Police said earlier this week an officer with an anti-drug task force was suspected of involvement, that he had been placed under "restrictive custody" and that criminal charges would be filed against him.
But police chief Ronald Dela Rosa revealed Thursday the accused officer had not been detained as part of his "restrictive custody". He said the policeman was meant to just report to his officers, but that he had stopped doing so and gone missing.
"I hope you surrender because if you don't, you will really die. You son of whore, you will die if you do not surrender," Dela Rosa said in an interview with DZMM radio.
The case has drawn criticism from some lawmakers and local media as an example of corrupt policemen expanding their illegal activities after being given freedoms by President Rodrigo Duterte to prosecute his war against drugs.
Duterte has encouraged police to kill drug traffickers and addicts, and vowed to shield them from prosecution.
About 5,700 people have died in Duterte's drug war since he took office in the middle of last year.
"Now cops appear to have upped their game by venturing into kidnapping for ransom in the name of the drug war," the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which has reported critically on the crime crackdown, said in an editorial on Tuesday.
Dela Rosa, picked by Duterte to lead his war on drugs, last year urged drug users to kill traffickers and burn down their homes. He later apologized for his "emotional outburst".
The Daily Inquirer newspaper on Monday quoted the missing man's wife as saying the abductors had kidnapped him in a bid to extort a ransom.
The wife said she had already paid five million pesos ($100,000) but the kidnappers wanted another 4.5 million pesos, according to the newspaper.
Dela Rosa said he had ordered a "manhunt" for the officer, whose lack of cooperation he took as a sign of guilt.
"There is a big chance this idiot is really guilty," Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa said he met with the businessman's wife and the South Korean ambassador on Wednesday, assuring them the case would be quickly resolved.
"But honestly I doubt the Korean is still alive," Dela Rosa said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, has vowed to launch a Senate investigation into kidnapping and extortion cases by the police force, which has a long history of corruption.
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