Manila – The Philippine police chief said his forces had “reloaded” and were back fighting their president’s deadly war on drugs, just over a month after they were withdrawn because of widespread corruption.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in late January he had suspended all police from his crackdown on illegal drugs, which has claimed more than 6 500 lives, after describing them as “rotten to the core”.
National police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said Monday reforms had been implemented to ensure there was no repeat of previous problems, which included anti-drugs officers kidnapping and murdering a South Korean businessman.
“The war on drugs is on, and this time it is going to be more extensive, aggressive and well-coordinated, with built-in systems that guarantee full accountability and instil internal discipline among all personnel,” Dela Rosa said.
Philippine authorities had originally named the drug war “Double Barrel”, in a reference to a two-pronged strategy of police fighting the drug war on the streets while also focusing on “high value” targets.
“Today we are going to relaunch the war on drugs, we’ve relaunched our project: Double Barrel Reloaded,” Dela Rosa said at a speech at national police headquarters in Manila.
An accompanying police statement announcing the new campaign also named it as “Double Barrel Reloaded”.
Dela Rosa said in the statement there had been a “resurgence” in the drugs trade while police had been suspended.
“It only goes to show that we cannot afford to lower our guard when confronting a vicious enemy. There must be continuity of effort if the desire is to completely eradicate the problem,” he said.
Duterte said in late January he planned to “cleanse” the police force, which has long been regarded as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country, before letting it return to the drug war frontlines.
Dela Rosa’s comments on Monday and the accompanying press release referred to specific measures to stop corrupt police officers from being involved in the drug war, rather than structural measures to tackle graft throughout the force.
Duterte won presidential elections last year after promising to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.
Since then, police have reported killing more than 2 550 people and nearly 4 000 others have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures.
Many Filipinos support the drug war.
But critics have warned of extrajudicial killings and other widespread human rights abuses in the drug war, with Amnesty International saying last month police may be guilty of crimes against humanity.
It accused police of fatally shooting defenceless people, paying assassins to murder addicts and stealing from those they killed.