In a speech on Tuesday, controversial president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, told the heads of his military that he needed their help in his “war on drugs,” as well as to aid in his efforts to expel corruption from the police force. On Wednesday, the Philippine defense ministry asked him to issue a formal order allowing them to take action.
The defense ministry asked the president for “an official order regarding this presidential directive to serve as a legal basis for our troops to follow.” They continued in their official statement, “By the same token, the president’s verbal directive to arrest ‘scalawag cops’ should also be covered by a formal order.”
Duterte launched a very real “war on drugs” since taking power after serving as a city mayor. In his seven month anti-drug campaign thus far, it has been reported that more than 7,600 people have been killed, with at least 2,500 of those deaths coming at the hands of the police. The remainder is said to be due to vigilante efforts and turf wars between drug operations.
The wave of deaths resulting in Duterte anti-drug campaign has been widely criticized by world leaders and human rights groups alike, with Amnesty International accusing the police in the Philippines of operating like the criminals they are charged with stopping. They claim the police have begun taking payments for killings and even delivering the bodies of dispatched “drug dealers” to funeral homes themselves.
The deaths of thousands of people with no trials or convictions appeared to be “systematic, planned and organized” by authorities, Amnesty International states, and constitutes what they consider to be crimes against humanity.
The president’s drug war came to a sudden halt on Monday, however, after it came to light that corrupt law enforcement officials had killed a prominent South Korean businessman. Duterte, infuriated by this turn of events, commanded all anti-drug operations to cease immediately as he pursued avenues to purge the police force of corruption. It would appear his plan is now to utilize the military as a supplement, or even replacement, for the problem-riddled Philippine National Police (PNP).