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Philippines president wants military to join war on drugs


The Philippines’ president has said he plans to issue an executive order that would allow the involvement of the military in his anti-drug campaign in the wake of a scandal gripping the police force.

President Rodrigo Duterte also stressed on Thursday that there was no need to impose martial law to fight drugs, which he described as a national security threat.

He had repeatedly threatened to declare martial law if he saw it necessary for the crackdown on illegal drugs.

The Philippines’ police, the force that had until now been carrying out Duterte’s war on drugs, faces allegations of corruption amid a scandal involving the kidnapping and killing of a South Korean businessman by officers.

On Monday, the police chief in the country suspended all operations in the anti-narcotics campaign until its ranks were cleansed of rogue officers.

President Duterte had said he was “embarrassed” that anti-drugs officers had abused their power to engage in kidnapping, leading to the death by strangulation of the businessman on the grounds of the national police headquarters.

An anti-drugs agency has been placed in charge of the campaign by Duterte, who now wants the military to help.

This picture, taken on January 18, 2017, shows policemen investigating the body of an alleged drug user on the ground after unidentified gunmen shot him dead in Manila. (By AFP)

Duterte’s signature anti-drug campaign has itself been a source of alarm. Rights groups accuse Duterte of turning a blind eye to a wave of alleged extrajudicial killings by police, mostly of low-level peddlers. Police denies carrying out such killings.

Thousands of people have been killed in the campaign against drugs since it started on June 30 last year. According to police figures, about 2,000 drug suspects have been killed in security operations, while nearly 4,000 others have died in unexplained circumstances linked to the crackdown, according to media.

During his presidential election campaign in mid-2016, Duterte ran mainly on a platform of fighting drugs and crime.

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