MANILA, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed from service two regional police chiefs he earlier tagged as "narco-generals," for they protected the illegal drug trade, his spokesman said on Monday.

Ernesto Abella, the spokesman, identified the two Philippine National Police (PNP) senior officers as National Capital Region Police Director Joel Pagdilao and Quezon City Police Chief Superintendent Edgardo Tinio. Both officers were among the five police officers that Duterte linked to the illegal drug trade in July last year.

"In line with the president's promise to render the nation crime and corruption free, he (Duterte) has dismissed from service two presidential appointees who are officials of the PNP," Abella told a news conference at the Malacanang presidential palace.

Duterte has started a "drug war" since he took office last year, vowing to eradicate rampant illegal drug problems and related crimes. Philippine police has conducted thousands of anti-drug operations and killed over 3,000 drug addicts and dealers ever since.

Abella said that a decision signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last Thursday has found Tinio and Pagdilao being administratively liable "for serious neglect of duty and serious irregularity in the performance of duty, and have been duly dismissed."

"Evidence shows that both generals deliberately refused, without cause, to perform their duties as police officers resulting in the proliferation of the drug trade in their areas of jurisdiction. Thus, the president made decision," Abella said.

"The removal of a high-ranking officer serves as a strong reminder to the uniformed personnel to honor and to uphold always their sworn duty to serve and protect our people and our country," he added.