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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte raises a glass of water as he proposed a toast during the Asian Development Bank 50th anniversary in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

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MANILA (Reuters) - More than 250 rogue police reassigned by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to an island stronghold of Islamist militants failed to show up at their punishment posting on Tuesday, and faced expulsion from the force.

Just 53 of the 311 officers whom Duterte had publicly shamed as "foolish, idiots and sons of bitches" were on a C130 plane when it touched down in the southern city of Zamboanga, a transit point for the restive island of Basilan.

Duterte this month gave the officers an angry dressing down live on television, telling them they could return to Manila if they survived Basilan, the home of the Abu Sayyaf group notorious for piracy and beheading hostages.

The order came a week after an outraged Duterte disbanded the police anti-drugs units following the discovery that rogue officers used his drugs war as a cover for the kidnap and murder of a South Korean businessman.

Most of the police reassigned to Basilan were under internal investigation for offences that included robbery, extortion and kidnapping.

"They are showing their bad attitude by their absence," said Oscar Albayalde, the chief of the capital region police.

He gave the no-shows three days to provide a written explanation for their absence, or lose their jobs.

The war on drugs has broad public support despite the killing of more than 7,700 people since Duterte took office on June 30, about 2,500 in police operations.

The cause of other deaths are much in dispute, attributed by police to vigilantism, turf wars, or everyday murders unrelated to drugs. Activists are convinced many are extrajudicial killings, carried out by police or with their encouragement.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Reuters