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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – National police chief Ronald dela Rosa on Monday, January 30, ordered all police units to stop anti-illegal drug operations nationwide while the organization focuses on "internal cleansing."
"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," said Dela Rosa in a speech before newly-promoted police officials at Camp Crame.
Dela Rosa's announcement came hours after a late-night press conference of President Rodrigo Duterte where he ordered the dismantling of all anti-illegal drug units in the PNP in the wake of a scandal related to the murder of a South Korean businessman inside Camp Crame in October 2016. (READ: Duterte orders 'cleansing' of PNP, extends drug war again)
Senior Superintendent Bert Ferro of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG), which was ordered abolished by Duterte Sunday night, confirmed that Dela Rosa's announcement means a stop to all anti-illegal drugs operations at the local level.
Ferro told reporters this is part of the President's orders Sunday night during a joint police-military command conference in Malacañang.
With the order, the only government agency tasked to run after illegal drugs and dealers is the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Duterte intends to create a "narco police" command to weed out police involved in the drug trade. The new command will be under PDEA.
"I said I will establish a new command... The overall head of that is the PDEA," said the President.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch, however, said the PNP should prove that the order is more than just a "public relations gesture." (READ: Watchdog dares Dela Rosa: Prove it's more than just PR)
Dela Rosa: 'Crime is happening'
Dela Rosa himself offered to resign over the weekend, according to Duterte, a move the President rejected.
Asked Monday if the order meant a breakdown in discipline in the institution he leads, Dela Rosa said, "We must admit because crime is happening within our ranks."
On the move to weed the PNP of scalawags in the war on drugs, Dela Rosa admitted that it's only now that the leadership began to seriously consider it. "Ngayon lang pinag-isipan 'yan. We were doing well. We presumed regularity."
As of January 28, over 7,000 Filipinos have been killed in the administration's 6-month war on drugs, a campaign that's been criticized by various sectors and international organizations.
Using anti-drugs as cover
A policeman and his superior, both under the AIDG, were involved in the kidnap-slay case of Jee Ick Joo, a South Korean businessman who was abducted from his home in Angeles City in October 18, 2016 and murdered right inside Camp Crame on the same day, probers said.
It was only in January, barely 3 months later, when the PNP leadership finally uncovered the murder – an embarrassment, Duterte admitted Sunday.
The cops involved in the murder used the government's anti-drug operation as cover when they abducted him, probers said.
At a Senate hearing last week, the National Bureau of Investigation implicated former AIDG official Superintendent Rafael Dumlao in the kidnap-slay case, based on the testimony of another AIDG policeman, SP03 Ricky Sta Isabel. The PNP had removed both Dumlao and Sta Isabel from the AIDG. – Rappler.com