Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte [official website], who was elected last May after campaigning on a promise to be extremely harsh on drug users [JURIST report], announced the suspension of the island nation’s “war on drugs” [statement] during a press conference Sunday night. In a statement to reporters on Monday, Philippines National Police [official website] chief Ronald dela Rosa confirmed [Rappler report] that Duterte’s decision would mean the abrupt dissolution of the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group [website], which some media outlets have accused [Rappler report] being connected to more than 6,000 killings. Duterte’s announcement comes after the highly publicized murder of Jee Ick-joo, a South Korean businessman who was taken from his home in the Philippines, allegedly by rogue high-ranking anti-drug officials, and held for ransom. Jee was then strangled to death, cremated and flushed down a toilet, according to Duterte in an apology to South Korea.
The announcement comes just weeks after Duterte threatened [JURIST report] to implement martial law to deal with the country’s drug issue. During his campaign, Duterte said that 100,000 people would die [Guardian report] in his crackdown on crime. Since Duterte has taken office, more than 400 suspected drug dealers have been killed and 600,000 have surrendered to the police. In October the International Criminal Court [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the rising occurrence of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in connection with the ongoing war on drugs. In September Duterte declared a “state of lawlessness” [JURIST report] in the Philippines, which would allow police and military personnel to frisk individuals and search cars. In August Duterte threatened to withdraw [JURIST report] the country from the UN following criticisms against his controversial crackdown on illegal drugs.