MANILA (AFP) - Philippine policemen robbed and extorted money from three South Korean golfers as part of a suspected larger racket targeting tourists from the neighbouring nation, a senior officer said Tuesday (Jan 24).
The announcement fuelled fears of police abuse under the cover of President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on crime, after authorities announced last week policemen murdered a South Korean businessman then extorted money from his wife.
"They came to the Philippines just to play golf but they went through a traumatic experience," Chief Superintendent Aaron Aquino, the regional police head, told AFP.
He said the three South Koreans were staying in an upscale gated community in Angeles City, about two hours' drive north of Manila, when policemen barged into their house under the pretext of carrying out an illegal gambling raid on December 30.
They robbed the Koreans of their computers, jewellery, golf clubs, golf shoes and 10,000 pesos (S$285), according to Aquino.
He said the three South Koreans were then held at a police station for about eight hours until a friend paid 300,000 pesos for their freedom.
The three reported the incident to the South Korean embassy, which informed the national police, Aquino said.
This led to an investigation that found seven policemen were involved, according to Aquino, who said they all faced the sack.
However he said the offending officers would not face criminal charges because that would require the South Koreans, who had fled, to return to the Philippines.
"They don't want to come back. They are terrified," he said.
The incident took place in the same gated subdivision where policemen abducted a South Korean businessman in October, Aquino said.
The businessman, abducted in a fake anti-drug operation, was strangled inside the national police headquarters in Manila but his wife, thinking he was alive, later paid about US$100,000 in ransom, authorities said last week.
Aquino said the two incidents were not related but he suspected rogue policemen had targeted many South Koreans in the Angeles area.
"I suspect there are many (such incidents) but most of the crimes committed against the South Koreans are not being reported. They are all afraid," he said.
The murder of the businessmen has shocked and angered the South Korean government, with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se demanding those behind the crime be brought to justice.
The police have come under intense scrutiny as the frontline troops in Duterte's efforts to eradicate illegal drugs in society, with human rights groups accusing them of mass extrajudicial killings.
Duterte has vowed to shield police from any murder charges, and told them he accepts them getting "sideline" money as long as it is not from drug activities.