MANILA (AFP) - Rogue policemen who staged an audacious robbery on one of the Philippines' busiest roads have been exposed by a photo of their crime that went viral on Twitter, the authorities said on Tuesday.
Social media-fuelled anger over the image, apparently taken by a motorist of gun-wielding men surrounding a van in daylight last week, forced law enforcers into a manhunt that led to some of their own.
Two men have been arrested while seven others are being pursued, all former or active policemen, said national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Sindac. "We really started our investigation based on this photo," said the head of the suburban police force investigating the incident, Chief Superintendent Abelardo Villacorta.
The Twitter photo helped investigators trace a vehicle used in the crime on Manila's main thoroughfare to a policeman who eventually confessed. He revealed that the rogue officers accosted two men aboard a van, robbed them of 2 million pesos (S$57,700) and then held them in a police station for seven hours.
The two were only freed after the Twitter photo went viral, said Supt Villacorta.
"They got scared because of the photo so they released the two... and warned the two victims that they would be killed if they filed a complaint," he said.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who is in charge of the police, told AFP they knew the identity of the person who took the picture and uploaded it on Twitter.
"But we are withholding that for privacy and security reasons," he said.
The Philippine police force has long been regarded as extremely corrupt, and kidnappings or robberies by police is not unusual.
And like many other powerful figures in Philippine society, the police generally get away with their crimes, creating what is poisonously referred to by locals as a "culture of impunity".
But on Tuesday, Filipinos were hailing the ability of social media and brave netizens to chip away at that culture.
"To whoever took that photo of the kidnapping... I admire you for your courage and quick thinking. I also pray for your safety," read one tweet.