A US-based rights watchdog said the abduction-slay of a South Korean businessman by antidrug police operatives bolstered suspicion that law enforcers are behind the vigilante-style killing of more than 3,600 alleged drug suspects in the past six months.
Human Rights Watch also voiced fears that policemen who now enjoy a license to kill in the name of President Duterte's war on drugs will eventually venture into killing for personal profit.
The nongovernment organisation has been vocal in lambasting Duterte's antidrug campaign, which has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 alleged drug suspects and bystanders mostly in extrajudicial fashion.
At least 2,250 drug suspects were reportedly killed in police operations since July 1, 2016 while 3,603 more alleged drug users and dealers were killed by unidentified gunmen.
Human Rights Watch said the extrajudicial killing of Hanjin executive Jee Ick-joo is "notably grotesque."
"Jee's extrajudicial execution bolsters allegations that 'death squads' composed of police personnel operating in civilian clothes, are committing some and perhaps many of those killings," Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia Phelim Kine said on Thursday.
The killing is "an ominous indicator of the breakdown of rule of law" under the Duterte administration, he said.
The Department of Justice has recently approved the filing of kidnap for ransom with homicide charges against three members of the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group and several John Does who abducted Jee from his home in Angeles City on Oct. 18 on false charges of illegal drug activities.
A police officer was identified as the one who strangled Jee inside Camp Crame on the same day.
But his abductors still demanded a $100,000 ransom, which the businessman's family paid.
Kine said the murder was the result of Mr. Duterte's pledge to give policemen effective immunity if they kill in the name of his drug war.
"Police have good reason to believe that they can literally get away with murder …
Yet our previous research in the Philippines shows that those given a license to kill with impunity will eventually start doing so for personal profit," he said.