The Philippines police chief expressed sorrow and fury on Thursday after discovering members of an anti-drug task force had kidnapped and killed a South Korean businessman inside the national police headquarters.
“I want to disappear from this world because of so much shame after what my men did,” police chief Ronald Dela Rosa, a longtime ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, told a news conference.
Dela Rosa said he was “very angry” and “very offended” after learning the crime took place at the home of the national police. He did not say how many policemen were involved, or if any had been charged.
“I am very sorry that this crime happened and my own men are involved,” he said. “I want to kill those policemen who are into crime syndicates but I cannot do it. That’s illegal.”
The cremated remains of Jee Ick-joo, abducted in October by rogue officers involved in kidnappings, were found at a funeral parlour in the capital Manila, according to media.
Policemen detained Jee with a fake arrest warrant with the intent of holding him for ransom, but killed him the same day. The men then extracted a ransom of five million pesos ($100,000) from Jee’s wife without telling her the businessman was dead.
Jee’s death is the latest setback for a police force drawing heavy criticism from rights groups, who say cover-ups and abuses of power are rampant and accuse police of executing suspected drug dealers as part of Duterte’s narcotics crackdown.
Police deny involvement in extrajudicial killings and say deaths in the course of the anti-drugs campaign are in self-defence.
Dela Rosa said Duterte’s assurance of legal protection for policeman accused of wrongdoing as part of the drugs campaign would not apply to erring officers.
Antonio Trillanes, a senator and staunch Duterte critic, said the president’s campaign against drugs had created a culture of impunity. “We’re creating monsters out of some elements of the Philippines National Police,” he told CNN Philippines.
South Korean officials expressed alarm over the killing and other attacks on Koreans in the Philippines. Foreign minister Yun Byung-Se demanded those behind the crime be brought to justice.
Philippines 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 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. He reiterated his support for police on Thursday.
“I won’t neglect my police. If you work in the performance of your duty, I will protect you. You have no problem,” said Duterte, who has not commented directly on Jee’s murder.