MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte publicly accused five police generals of involvement in the drugs trade on Tuesday and said only he would be accountable for a bloody crackdown that has killed 30 people since he took office last week.
Duterte named the generals during a televised speech and said they were protecting drugs syndicates and contributing to a “deterioration of law and order” that he would fight to reverse, with no remorse for the consequences.
Three of the generals were retired, including one mayor, while the two serving officers were relieved of their duties, he said.
“It’s going to be a dirty fight, it’s going to be a bloody fight. I am not apologizing for it,” Duterte said.
“As public authority, mine and mine alone, I assume full legal responsibility for it.”
Duterte appears determined to follow through with what was the only substantive election promise he made - to wipe out drugs gangs and end crime in six months. He has been dubbed “the executioner” and “the punisher” among his supporters and critics alike.
Thirty suspected drugs dealers were killed in the five days after he took office on June 30 and the death toll since his May 9 election win is far higher than that recorded in the previous four months.
The drugs war has triggered alarm among human rights groups, lawyers and the clergy who say “summary executions” should stop.
But Duterte said there would be no turning back and called for the recruitment of 3,000 new police and for security forces to risk their lives to help clean up the streets.
“The criminals have hijacked, they have taken over the public streets and public places,” he said.
“We have to remove that fear. Let us transfer that fear in the hearts of the criminals.”
But Vicente Loot, one of the generals Duterte accused of colluding with drugs gangs, denied any involvement and said he deserved a fair hearing.
“Because of that statement, I will be tried by publicity,” he told ABS-CBN News Channel.
“I hope I will be given a chance to face my accuser ... and clear my name.”
Reporting by Martin Petty and Enrico Dela Cruz