MANILA (AFP) - A South Korean businessman kidnapped by Philippine policemen under the guise of a raid on illegal drugs was murdered at the national police headquarters in Manila, the authorities said Thursday (Jan 19).
Philippine police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said he felt deep shame as he announced the latest development in the case, which has fuelled fears about widespread abuse by officers as they prosecute President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly anti-drug war.
"They know the whole story of how they took him, brought him to Camp Crame, and strangled him," Dela Rosa said, referring to police officers accused of involvement in kidnapping and murdering the businessman, who was aged in his 50s.
Camp Crame, the national police headquarters, has a jail as well as administration buildings where all the top officers are based. It was not clear exactly where the man, who has been identified only by his surname of Ji, was killed in Camp Crame.
Ji disappeared from his home in Angeles city, about two hours' drive north of Manila, in October last year.
The kidnappers demanded from his wife a ransom and she initially paid five million pesos (S$142,581), thinking he was still alive, authorities said on Wednesday when they first announced details of the police officers' involvement.
Police chiefs said then that three officers were directly involved and one superior oversaw the operation.
The policemen led the wife to believe her husband was alive for months, but he had been in fact killed on the day he was abducted, police said on Wednesday.
The policemen were from a special taskforce focused solely on illegal drugs stationed at Camp Crame.
The incident has shocked and angered the South Korean government, with Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se demanding those behind the crime be brought to justice.
Dela Rosa expressed deep regret on Thursday.
"I want to just disappear from the face of the Earth because I am so ashamed of what my people did," he said.
The police force have been 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.
Police have reported killing 2,250 drug suspects since Duterte assumed office, with 3,710 others murdered by unknown suspects who at times have left signs at the crime scenes accusing their victims of being drug dealers or addicts.
Duterte has promised to protect police from prosecution if they are charged with murder for killing a drug suspect, leading to fears corrupt officers feel they have a green light to commit crimes in the name of the drug war.
Duterte on Thursday reiterated his support for police.
"I won't neglect my police. If you work in the performance of your duty, I will protect you. You have no problem," he told police officials.
Duterte has not commented directly on Ji's murder.