MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday launched another tirade against corrupt police who are the frontline troops in his drug war, after four more officers were accused of kidnapping and extortion.
The arrest of the four from Manila's financial district of Makati was the latest in a series of scandals involving police that have raised concerns about their suitability to prosecute the drug war.
"I was reading, coming here, another spot report of four policemen again (linked to) kidnapping. These policemen, sons of *****!" Duterte said at Manila airport before flying to Cambodia.
The 160,000-member police force is the main enforcer of Duterte's 10-month-old drugs crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives and led to warnings he may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.
Duterte admitted early this year that the force was "corrupt to the core," after several anti-drugs policeman were arrested on charges of kidnapping and murdering a South Korean businessman as part of an extortion scam.
Duterte pulled all police off the drug war at that time and vowed to "cleanse" the force. But after a brief lull he allowed the police to resume the anti-drug crackdown without major reforms.
Duterte said Wednesday he planned to appoint the armed forces' chief of staff, General Eduardo Ano, as interior secretary when the general retires late this year, to help clean up the police force.
"I need him (Ano) because I have a problem with the police," Duterte said.
The force again came under fire last month after a dozen people, mainly drug suspects, were discovered inside a closet-sized secret cell at a Manila police station.
Acting on a tip-off, staff from the Commission on Human Rights, an independent government agency, made a surprise visit to the police station and uncovered the cell.
The detainees told them that the police were demanding money to release them. The commission on Wednesday filed a complaint with the ombudsman in that case, accusing police of illegal detention.
In the latest case that attracted Duterte's ire, the four Makati police officers were arrested late Tuesday for allegedly extorting money from a businessman and his girlfriend whom they had detained the previous day.
"They demanded P400,000 (about $8,000) in exchange for their release," Senior Superintendent Chiquito Malayo, head of a police anti-corruption unit, told reporters.
He said victims made an initial downpayment.
"The agreement is that they have to complete the remaining balance the following day, or on May 10, or else the family (of the victims) will be killed," Malayo said.