Philippines orders all top cops to resign, says alleged drug links ‘big problem’

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The Philippines on Wednesday ordered all police colonels and generals to hand in their “courtesy” resignations, as the government moved to cleanse the police force of alleged links to the illegal drug trade.

Appointed government officials in the Philippines allegedly involved in wrongdoing have been asked to resign out of respect for the appointing authority. They will continue to perform their duties until their resignations are accepted.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos said that only the resignations of police officers proven to have drug links would be accepted by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, but he did not give a timeline.

This means the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be able to function even with the mass resignations expected in the coming weeks.

Abalos said the resignations may be the “only way to make a fresh start” for the PNP, which gained international notoriety for carrying out former president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war.

“We have a big problem in our police force. We have generals and colonels involved in drugs. And based on the recommendation of our PNP chief and other officers, I am appealing to all colonels and generals to submit their courtesy resignation,” Abalos said.

“It’s hard to fight in a war when your ally will be the one to shoot you in the back,” Abalos said. “We need to cleanse our ranks. The people who trust us must trust us even more.”

Several high-ranking police officers have been linked to the drug trade in the Philippines.

Duterte, who was president from 2016 to 2022, earlier named several generals supposedly embroiled in the illegal drug trade. Cases were filed against some of these so-called “narco-generals”. Some were sacked, but there have been no criminal convictions to date.

Abalos said a committee will be formed to investigate PNP officers’ alleged involvement in illegal drugs, but he did not say who would be part of this body.

Thousands of drug suspects died in police operations under the Duterte government, which the International Criminal Court (ICC) is now seeking to investigate for crimes against humanity. The PNP denied the killings were executions and claimed the victims resisted arrest.

Marcos has pivoted from Duterte’s bloody approach to the drug menace.

He has said that his anti-illegal drugs campaign would focus more on prevention and rehabilitation. But his government has also sought to block the ICC probe on his ally, Duterte.

The United Nations Human Rights Council said in October 2022 that justice remains elusive for victims of Duterte’s drug war, as many of the cases remain unresolved.

Human rights groups criticized Duterte’s anti-drug campaign as a “war against the poor”, as it failed to target high-level drug traffickers and instead targeted small-time drug users and pushers, who are often among the poorest of the poor in the Philippines.



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