Philippine police say 400 officers dismissed under Duterte government

President Rodrigo Duterte salutes while passing members of custom police on Feb 6, 2018.
President Rodrigo Duterte salutes while passing members of custom police on Feb 6, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippines has dismissed nearly 400 police officers in a nationwide crackdown since mid-2016, police said on Friday (March 2), as President Rodrigo Duterte pushes to clean up a force notorious for abuses.

Most dismissals were for robbery, extortion, or absences, while serious crimes, such as kidnapping and protecting drug dealers, figured in some others, Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao said in a statement. He called the campaign an "uncompromising stand against breach of discipline".

None of the officers were dismissed for their conduct in police operations that were part of President Duterte's fierce war on drugs, during which officers have killed more than 4,000 people.

Activists say police are systematically executing drug suspects, but police reject that and say killings were in self-defence, citing their more than 120,000 drug-related arrests as proof of their intent to preserve life.

The dismissals cover the 19 months Mr Duterte has been in office. About 60 arrests of police were for bribery offences committed during 24 entrapment operations by the counter-intelligence task force.

About 1,700 officers were disciplined, with measures ranging from reprimands, demotions and suspensions, to dismissals. Those involved in criminal activities face cases in the courts.

In the past 11 months, police had received more than 10,000 complaints through tipoffs sent by text messages and telephone calls, Mr Bulalacao said.

About 15 per cent of the complaints were investigated and validated, resulting in arrests of police officers, most of them in the capital, Manila, and surrounding areas.

Mr Bulalacao said 167 officers were found to have been using drugs or were involved in drug-related crimes.

Mr Duterte has limited tolerance for errant police and has called the force "rotten". But he has steadfastly backed those fighting his war on drugs and even vowed to protect them from prosecution.

However, he insists he has never given an order to kill, other than in self-defence.

On Thursday, Mr Duterte ordered police and soldiers not to cooperate in any investigation into his drugs war.

That directive comes amid international calls for a United Nations investigation, and a decision by an International Criminal Court prosecutor to open a preliminary examination into a complaint accusing Mr Duterte and top officials of crimes against humanity.