Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the police forces to rejoin the frontline of the anti-drug campaign after they were barred from an active role in the bloody "drug war" two months ago due to the deaths of two teenage suspects. Announcing the order, Duterte also slammed critics, both individuals and human rights groups, and asked them to "go to hell".
Duterte had ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stand down in the anti-narcotic crackdown after the forces came under intense criticism. The teenage suspects were killed in August at the hands of police sparking widespread protests.
Overturning the original decision, Duterte said in a speech on Tuesday, 5 December: "I do not want Filipinos to be turned into fools during my time. You can do that at any other time but not during my time, during my watch."
Referring to human rights organisations and Catholic priests who have expressed concerns about the alleged extrajudicial killings, Duterte, who is notorious for his expletive-laden speeches, said: "You can go to hell, all of you." Duterte then said he would need one more year to clean up the country's drug problem.
The presidential office said the police forces are being reinstated because of rising drug-related crimes in the country and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is unable to handle the situation. "There has been a notable resurgence in illegal drug activities and crimes since the PNP and other law enforcement agencies were directed to leave to the PDEA the conduct of all anti-illegal campaigns and operations," said Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque.
As many as 7,000 people are thought to have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte launched the "drug war" against the illegal narcotics trade. Many of the deaths are suspected to be extrajudicial killings by vigilante groups raising serious concerns about the prevailing human rights situation.