February 20, 2018 / 2:21 PM / 4 months ago

Philippines Duterte extends term of top cop leading his deadly war on drugs

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he would extend the tour of duty of the country’s police chief “a little bit longer” to carry out reforms in a law enforcement agency at the forefront of his war on drugs.

Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a news conference on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Pasay, metro Manila, Philippines, November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao/Files

Ronald dela Rosa, director-general of the Philippine National Police (PNP), was supposed to step down upon reaching the retirement age of 56 in January but Duterte had asked him to stay on for three more months until April.

But the president said he would keep the stocky, fiercely loyal general, nicknamed “Bato” (Rock), beyond that date.

“I still have to institute continuing reforms with the police, and police has always been a problem,” Duterte said in a speech at an event with businessmen.

He said there were “scoundrels and scalawags in every organisation” and he needed dela Rosa to finish the job of cleaning up the police.

“Because he enjoys my trust and confidence, I will extend his term for a little bit longer,” he said, without saying how much longer.

Dela Rosa, who is known for his animated comments and occasional teary-eyed moments when on television, has been the driver of Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign, under which about 4,000 Filipinos have been killed in what police call legitimate operations against “drug personalities”.

Human rights groups say many of those are executions, and the victims are users and small-time peddlers. The police deny that and say those killed had resisted arrest.

Duterte had previously said he would appoint dela Rosa as chief of the Bureau of Corrections when he retires from PNP.

He gave no details about the reforms he wanted dela Rosa to implement at the PNP. The police deny carrying out illegal killings during the anti-drugs campaign, but openly admit that corruption, abuse of power and insubordination are problems in the force.

Duterte and dela Rosa are among those named in a complaint by a Philippine lawyer alleging crimes against humanity that the International Criminal Court has started a preliminary examination into.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty

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