Former PH police chief indicted for drugs war corruption

The former chief police enforcer of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs will be charged with corruption for allegedly protecting officers linked to the narcotics trade, the justice department said Thursday.

Oscar Albayalde resigned in October after serving as Philippine police chief for more than a year, having presided over an anti-narcotics crackdown that left thousands of drug suspects dead.

The episode that led to his sudden fall from grace cast an unwelcome light on a drug war that is immensely popular with Filipinos, but which has faced international criticism over allegations that police were summarily executing suspects.

The justice department said prosecutors found “probable cause” to charge Albayalde for not punishing officers accused of failing to account for 163 kilograms (359 pounds) of drugs and 9.7 million pesos ($191,000) sized from a drug raid.

A justice department statement said 13 other police officers would be charged with drug offences, corruption, and taking bribes for their role in the operation in Pampanga province, north of Manila.

Albayalde has repeatedly denied having protected the officers or profiting from the seized drugs.

The charge levelled against him carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The raid took place in November 2013 when Albayalde was Pampanga’s police chief.

Allegations of police graft and abuse are not rare in the Philippines, with Duterte twice ordering police to stop the anti-narcotics campaign because of allegations of corruption and murder by officers.

The Pampanga controversy, however, went right to the top of the force.

Police said last month they had killed 5,552 suspects in anti-drug operations since Duterte came to office in June 2016.

Human rights groups allege the real number is four times higher, and say the killings are a crime against humanity.

International Criminal Court prosecutors have launched a preliminary probe of the campaign, and the United Nations’ top rights body voted in favour of an in-depth review.

While overwhelmingly backed by Filipinos, critics allege the drug war targets the poor and leaves the rich and powerful untouched, while reinforcing a culture of impunity. (AFP)