Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday publicly named five top police officials he said should be investigated for involvement in illegal drugs.
The president, who won elections in May by promising a ruthless war on crime, was making good on an earlier threat to publicly shame officers who were involved in or protecting the illegal drug trade.
“I order them relieved of their assignments and report to the (national police) director-general who would like to talk to them,” he said in a speech to the air force.
He also ordered the police commission to investigate the five, adding: “Don’t give me a song and dance. Find the truth.”
He said information on the alleged involvement of the five in drugs had undergone “so many validations” but he did not elaborate on the evidence against them.
National police spokesmen could not be contacted for comment.
One of the retired police generals named by Duterte told ABS-CBN television that he was innocent, protesting that he was being subjected to “trial by publicity.”
Duterte also reiterated his call for the return of the death penalty as well as his vow to pursue a campaign against illegal drugs.
Scores of suspected drug dealers have been shot dead by police since Duterte won the May 9 elections.
He has previously called on police to kill drug dealers and even urged the public and communist rebels to join in.
In his speech, Duterte stressed, “Many more will die…. It’s going to be a dirty fight, it’s going to be a bloody fight. I’m not apologising for it.”
The president, who has been linked to vigilante death squads that rights groups said killed more than a thousand people when he was mayor of the southern city of Davao, told security forces he would “assume full legal responsibility” for the campaign.
He also said the military should join the effort, adding he would need 3,000 more policemen to crack down on crime.
Duterte has made fighting crime the centrepiece of his administration, brushing aside human rights concerns over possible abuses.
Last weekend, Duterte’s newly appointed national police chief, Director-General Ronald Dela Rosa ordered police officers linked to narcotics trafficking to surrender by Sunday or be killed.