MANILA, Philippines—Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday prohibited another key law enforcement agency from carrying out his deadly anti-drug crackdown after banning the national police from the campaign because of corruption, and suggested he will use the military instead.
Duterte said his decision to exclude the National Bureau of Investigation — the Philippine counterpart of America’s FBI — from the crackdown left him with fewer enforcers and increased the pressure for him to tap the military, which has been busy battling Muslim extremist groups on three battlefronts in the south.
“We can’t use the police because it is corrupt. I cannot trust now the NBI because it is corrupt,” Duterte said in a speech in his southern hometown, Davao city. “I have limited warm bodies, I still have so many wars to fight.”
Human rights groups expressed alarm at the president’s statement, fearing that the deployment of counterinsurgency forces may worsen rights violations in a campaign that has already left thousands of drug suspects dead, including many in suspected extrajudicial killings.
Duterte has denied authorizing enforcers to kill unlawfully.
The president cited instances in which suspected drug lords managed to get access to cellphones while in NBI detention by paying off agents, leading him to lose trust in the investigation agency, part of the Department of Justice.
The 170,000-strong national police were barred from carrying out raids and making drug-related arrests after a group of officers used the crackdown as a cover to kidnap and kill a South Korean businessman for money in a still-unraveling scandal.
That left the much-smaller Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to wage the crackdown, which began after Duterto took office in June.
Duterte again lashed out at critics of his campaign, including the dominant Roman Catholic church and the United States, which under then President Barack Obama expressed alarm over the widespread killings. Duterte has repeatedly threatened to roll back Philippine engagement with the U.S. military, and on Thursday said he was considering an adversarial diplomatic gesture.
“No ambassador will go there,” he said. “I don’t feel like sending one.”