The Philippines has suspended The Punisher's notorious war on drugs following the brutal execution of an innocent man.

The botched kidnap and murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo sent shockwaves through the Philippines, with accusations President Rodrigo Duterte, known as The Punisher, has lost control of his police force.

Since he came to power last year, more than 2500 people accused of being drug suspects have been killed.

Yesterday Ronald dela Rosa, the Director-General of the country's National Police, told reporters he would be disbanding anti-drug units following the incident.


"To all the rogue cops, beware! We no longer have a war on drugs," Dela Rosa said.

"We will cleanse our ranks ... then maybe after that, we can resume our war on drugs. The president told us to clean the organisation first."

He said he does not know how long it will take to cleanse the force of corruption but said hopefully the war on drugs would resume within a month.

Human rights organisations have made numerous calls for an international investigation into the alleged unlawful killings.

Meanwhile, Duterte has vowed to extend his brutal crackdown from March this year right up to the end of his term in 2022.

What happened to Jee Ick-Joo?

Jee Ick-joo was a South Korean businessman stationed in Angeles City, about 80km north of Manila.

Last October, he received an abrupt visit from members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG).

They had a fake arrest warrant and accused Jee of being involved in drug activity, according to a Department of Justice investigation.

Jee was forcibly dragged to a police vehicle and driven to the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame, in Quezon City - a former detention centre.

On the way, he reportedly offered to bribe officers despite having no involvement in criminal activities, to no avail.

It was later revealed that mere hours after his arrival at the camp, Jee had been strangled to death.

He was then cremated and his ashes were flushed down a toilet bowl, Philippines National Police spokesman Colonel Dionard Carlos told CNN.

Two of the officers suspected of carrying out the crime were key anti-drug force officers.

The case raised fresh fears over police corruption in The Punisher's crackdown on drugs, as to whether they're exploiting their power for their own personal gain.

Choi Kyung-jin, the widow of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, who was kidnapped and later killed by his abductors, cries at the start of the Philippine Senate probe in the killing. Photo / AP
Choi Kyung-jin, the widow of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, who was kidnapped and later killed by his abductors, cries at the start of the Philippine Senate probe in the killing. Photo / AP

Jee's kidnappers then hit his wife with a ransom demand for his release. By this stage, Choi Kyung was under the impression her husband was still alive.

Mrs Jee told investigators she paid 5 million pesos ($138,000), but the kidnappers demanded a further 4.5 million.

It has sparked concerns over the effectiveness of Duterte's "knock and plead" operation - a tactic he adopted from his time as mayor of Davao City during the 1990s and 2000s.

It involves doorknocking suspected victims and instructing them to come for interrogation.

In the wake of the tragedy, human rights groups have renewed their calls for the Philippines leader to end his war on drugs.

How Duterte responded to Jee's death

Duterte has ordered police to temporarily suspend the war on drugs in order to "cleanse" the police force of corruption.

Speaking at a media briefing earlier this week, he said he had to reorganise the way anti-drug squads operate, and has since instructed the PNP to go after rogue policemen.

"You policemen are the most corrupt. You are corrupt to the core. It's in your system," Duterte told reporters as he railed against the officers allegedly responsible for Jee's death.

"Cleanse your ranks. Review their cases. Give me a list of who the scallywags are."

The controversial leader also apologised to South Korean investors and the South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines, Kim Jae-Shin, for the murder of Jee.

"I am very sorry for that sordid incident. But I can assure you; policemen - I will not let you get away," CNN reported him saying.

But whether it actually effects change is yet to be seen, with some human rights organisations suggesting it was little more than a PR exercise.

Despite the scandal, Duterte has reportedly extended his deadly drug war up to the last day of his term in 2022.

Once in office Duterte extended the timeframe until March of this year, but on Monday he said there would be no end while he was in power.

"I will extend it to the last day of my term," he told reporters. "March no longer applies."

In the Philippines, presidents are allowed to serve only a single term of six years.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has today called on the United Nations to lead an independent international investigation into alleged unlawful killings by the Philippine police.

"Suspending police anti-drug operations could reduce the killings, but they won't stop without a meaningful investigation into the 7000 deaths already reported," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"The Philippine police won't seriously investigate themselves, so the UN should take the lead in conducting an investigation.

"Unless there is an independent international investigation into these killings, and soon, the already long list of grave rights violations linked to the 'drug war' will only continue to grow."

On numerous occasions, Duterte has insisted he will not allow any police officer to go to jail for killing people in the name of his drug war.

He also said last year he would be "happy to slaughter" 3 million drug addicts as part of his crime war.

Police have reported killing more than 2500 people they accused of being drug suspects, while nearly 4000 others have died in unexplained circumstances in the crackdown, according to official figures.