MANILA - (UPDATED) There will be no more war against illicit drugs -- at least for the Philippine National Police.
This, after PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa on Monday directed all police units to halt anti-narcotics efforts and put priority instead on the "internal cleansing" of its ranks.
"We have to focus our efforts towards internal cleansing. And by the time na ma-cleanse natin ang PNP, the President will determine that and he will instruct us to go back on the war on drugs. But right now, no more drug operations," Dela Rosa said in a speech at Camp Crame.
The PNP is set to create a counter-intelligence task force that will carry out its "war on scalawags", he added.
"Wala itong ibang mission kundi habulin, run after scalawags in the PNP. Kaya kayong mga sindikatong pulis, tingnan niyo ito ngayon, lumaban kayo para kayo'y mamatay. Papatayin kayo nitong counter-intelligence task force," he warned.
In the meantime, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency will take the lead on Duterte's anti-narcotics crackdown.
Calls for a suspension of the war on drugs intensified following the death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo who was abducted by policemen from the Anti and strangled to death inside Camp Crame.
President Duterte himself on Sunday ordered the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) to disband, saying he was embarrassed that anti-drugs officers had abused their power to engage in kidnapping.
Hours after Duterte's statement, Dela Rosa announced Monday the suspension of the war on drugs and the break-up of the AIDG.
More than 7,000 people have been killed since Duterte, nicknamed "the punisher," unleashed his bloody crackdown seven months ago, some 2,250 in police operations and the rest still mostly under investigation.
Police say many of those so far unsolved could be the work of vigilantes or inter-gang drugs violence.
The campaign has caused alarm in the West and rights groups accuse Duterte of turning a blind eye to a wave of extrajudicial killings by police, mostly of low-level peddlers. Police deny that and say the killings are in self-defense.
-- With reports from Henry Atuelan, DZMM; Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News; Reuters