MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte dressed down 228 police officers on national TV Tuesday, presenting them with a thorny ultimatum: Resign or be shipped off to a terrorist hotbed known for beheadings and attacks on police stations.
Duterte accused the officers of misdeeds including corruption, drug use and dealing, and, in one high-profile case, the kidnapping and murder of a South Korean businessman.
Calling the group of National Police officers from Manila “rotten to the core,” Duterte said he was ordering them to Basilan, an island in the country’s restive south and home to Islamic terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf.
“I need policemen in the south. There is a lack of police officers in Basilan; that is why the police stations there are often under attack,” he told the officers, who were forced to stand for more than an hour in the sun.
“That is why all of you who are here; you are going to be part of Task Force South,” he told the officers. “If you don’t want to go there, go to your superior officer and tell them that you’re going to resign.”
He gave the officers 15 days to prepare for their new assignment, and he said the deployment would last for at least two years.
“If you survive, come back here,” Duterte said. “If you die there, I’ll tell the police not to spend to bring you here and just bury you there.”
Since taking office in June, Duterte has led a bloody crackdown on drug users and dealers that has left at least 3,600 people dead, and possibly thousands more. Last week, the president replaced the National Police force with the military as the primary enforcers of his campaign after a scandal emerged when it was discovered that it was police officers who killed the South Korean businessman.