He's known as 'The Rock' and not just because of his hard line stance and immovable position when it comes to his country's war on drugs.

Widely regarded as The Punisher's right hand man, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa is every bit as dangerous as the country's fiery president.

While 'The Punisher', president Rodrigo Duterte, has earned his nickname for ordering a brutal war on drugs, former military man Dela Rosa's moniker goes back further and is just as deserved.

The police chief, whose nickname (bato) translates to rock or stone, has become a household name due to his close relationship with the president and equally tough approach to crime.


Duterte made globule headlines in May when he promised to kill 100,000 criminals if elected to power.

Since then at least 3000 people have been killed, according to police figures, equating to around 44 deaths each day, AFP reported.

However human rights group fear that figure is much higher.

This week, the president, who hit the headlines after calling US President Barack Obama the son of a wh***, reaffirmed his commitment to fighting drugs, vowing the killings of pushers will continue.

"Until the (last) drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue and I will continue" he said.


Philippine National Police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, waves before boarding a vehicle at Camp Crame police headquarters in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila. Photo / AP
Philippine National Police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, waves before boarding a vehicle at Camp Crame police headquarters in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila. Photo / AP

'The Rock' earned his nickname early on in his career after graduating from the country's military academy, according to CNN.

But it seems the nickname was apt for other reasons other than where he grew up.

"When I was (first) seen by my senior officers, my body was like a rock ... rock solid. So they told me, 'Bato!' They start calling me 'Bato' because of my build."

"Later on they realised that I was born and raised in Barangay Bato, Santa Cruz, Davao Del Sur - that's my birthplace, Barangay Bato."

"So that was reinforced until now. They keep calling me 'Bato.' I cannot change it anymore."


After graduating from the academy Dela Rosa completed his ranger training and began working in his hometown of Davao where he was Duterte's police chief - ahead of his much bigger promotion.

But the 'friends' go back even further, in fact some 30 years, CNN reports, with Dela Rosa revealing they even share a telepathic connection.

"We trust each other, in a very long time association. He knows what I'm capable of doing and I know what he wants to be done," he said.

The Rock's approach and his push for people to kill drug dealers has also raised concerns.

"Why don't you give them a visit, pour gasoline on their homes and set these on fire to register your anger," Ronald Dela Rosa said in a speech just two weeks ago.

"They're all enjoying your money, money that destroyed your brain. You know who the drug lords are. Would you like to kill them? Go ahead. Killing them is allowed because you are the victim."

He later apologised for his choice of words admitting describing them as an "emotional outburst".


While Philippine authorities have hailed their tough war on drugs a success, concerns have been raised from ally the United States, as well as from various human rights groups.

US President Barack Obama was planning to raise the issue with Duterte at a meeting in Laos yesterday but cancelled it in the wake of the Philippine leader's stinging comments about him.

Duterte also warned he would not be lectured to and insists his tough approach to cut the crime rate is working.

Police have killed 1033 people in anti-drug operations since Duterte was sworn into office just over two months ago.

However another 1894 people have died in unexplained deaths, police claim.

Last month Human Rights Watch called for the president to investigate the killings and to persecute those responsible.

But Duterte and police have defended the high killing rate.

Police spokesman Dionardo Carlos told AFP: "They have guns, they are drug-crazed. Our policemen are just defending themselves."

Dela Rosa insists the unexplained deaths are due to drug syndicates waging war against each other, rather than extrajudicial killings by vigilantes and others.

However, Human Rights Watch has cast doubt on such claims.

The organisation said police claims that recent killings of suspects who "resisted arrest and shot at police officers," required evidence that they did act in self-defence.

Last month, Philippine senators opened an inquiry into the killings of more than 1700 suspected drug dealers and users amid a crackdown spearheaded by Duterte, with witnesses accusing some policemen of killing suspects and being involved in the illegal drugs trade.

In May, HRW Asian director Phelim Kine warned such violent and unlawful approaches to crime control "sends a dangerous credence to a widely held view in the Philippines that only tough-guy, "Dirty Harry" approaches can remedy the country's crime problem.

Duterte has promised to protect police from prosecution if they are charged over the deaths and insisted human rights won't get in the way of his war.

His police chief also warned this week that his officers were prepared to kill anyone, even rich and influential politicians, as they wage a deadly war on drugs.

In July, Dela Rosa slammed calls for an investigation as "legal harassment," claiming it "dampened the morale" of police officers.


It isn't just police under the spotlight over unlawful killings.

Vigilante groups have sprung up in response to Duterte's call to shoot drug dealers.

The Davao Death Squad or DDS, is one such group, which is active in Davao City on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines.

This is where Duterte served as mayor for 22 years before he won the presidential election by a landslide.

Human rights groups estimate DDS was responsible for the murders or disappearances of between 1020 and 1040 people between 1998 and 2008 alone.

Davao went from "murder capital of the Philippines" to "the fourth safest city in Asia" and Duterte strongly encouraged the public to target drug dealers and users.

The 71-year-old even promised to pay huge bounties in exchange for every person killed in the drug trade when elected in May.


The southeast Asian nation insists its tough anti-crime policy is working and that Duterte has wide support.

A pamphlet distributed at the Southeast Asian and East Asian summit in Laos said its country's police were not evil killers.

"We are not butchers who just kill people for no apparent reason," Reuters reported, citing the phamplet.

"The campaign against illegal drugs has yielded an unprecedented number of 'surrenderees': more than 600,000."

The phamplet also said 7532 drug operations had been carried out while 12,972 pushers and users had been arrested since Duterte took power.

It further claimed police operations in July had almost been cut in half compared to the same time 12 months earlier.