The return of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) anti-drug operations dubbed as Oplan Tokhang won’t be the police’s call alone, a Palace official said on Friday.
This as PNP Chief Ronald de la Rosa said he is determined to reinstate Operation Tokhang or the police campaign against drugs.
“I was already given the go signal. This year is our target. We will call the oversight committee that will supervise the operation,” he told reporters on Friday morning.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr., was responding to the announcement of National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Oscar Albayalde that the Oplan Tokhang, in the event it is reactivated, will be less bloody.
“I do not know yet. It is the plan of the PNP but while the President has asked the PNP to assist in anti-drug operations, the lead agency here remains the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” Roque said.
“We will also asked PDEA Director [Aaron] Aquino for his input,” Roque added.
Under Oplan Tokhang, police officers knock on households to encourage drug dependents and traffickers to surrender to authorities.
Tokhang, however, was first suspended in January 2017 after it was exposed that South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo was killed inside police headquarters in Camp Crame. It was later learned that the police took Joo on a fake arrest warrant for drug charges.
Tokhang, however, was returned after two months with de la Rosa promising that it won’t be bloody unless drug personalities resist arrest.
President Rodrigo Duterte then benched the PNP in anti-drug operations in October and tasked PDEA to take the lead instead after public outcry over the series of killings of teenage boys under the police’s anti-drug operations.
The PNP, however, was again tapped to assist PDEA in a month’s time in November 2017 because the President was not satisfied with PDEA’s output.
As the lead agency in the anti-drug war, PDEA conducted 1,341 anti-drug operations from October 10 to November 10 last year, resulting in the arrest of 404 drug personalities and the seizure of dangerous drugs worth P53.83 million.
‘True spirit’ of tokhang
De la Rosa said Operation Tokhang will be “true to its spirit” if reactivated.
Policemen will knock on the doors of suspected drug users’ houses and convince them to surrender to authorities, he said.
These operations, however, turned bloody as thousands of alleged drug users were killed by the police who usually claimed self-defense saying the suspects tried to put up a fight.
“Let us bring back the true spirit of Tokhang. Not the Tokhang that was being done before with the policemen carrying a list of drug personalities and telling those on the list to give money so their names would be removed from the list,” de la Rosa said adding, “Operation Tokhang does not involve blood.”
“There will be no apprehensions even if you are a known drug pusher. You will not be arrested, police will only talk to you. Tokhang is really bloodless in spirit,” he said.
Complaints to be investigated
Government records show at least 3,800 drug personalities were killed in legitimate police operations, but local and international human rights groups have pegged the drug-related deaths during the Duterte administration to as much as 13,000 including those killed without pending charges or trial.
Despite the figures, Roque assured the public that the Duterte administration would not tolerate violations of human rights and extra judicial killings as a result of the drug war.
“Whenever there is a complaint, the President will act on it as in the case of Kian wherein he called on the prosecution of Kian’s killers. The problem is, there are a lot of those who claim of violations but are not filing Loud de los Santos complaints,” Roque said.
Kian was one of the three teenage boys killed in police operations in August and September 2017.
“I would say they should file a complaint so that the government can investigate and prosecute those who are liable,” Roque added.
WITH ROY NARRA