By Roy Narra/Manila Times
Oplan Tokhang, the police campaign against illegal drugs, may make a comeback but it will be “less bloody,” National Capital Region Police Officer (NCRPO) Chief Oscar Albayalde said yesterday.
“I think the Chief PNP (Philippine National Police) (Ronald de la Rosa) is keen on bringing it back dahil dito tayo nakilala (because this was where we were recognised),” said Albayalde in a chance interview with reporters at the NCRPO New Year’s Call.
Albayalde said the NCRPO would focus on identifying drug users and persuading them to surrender, although there was still the option of conducting operations against them.
Under Oplan Tokhang, police knocked on the doors of drug suspects to urge them to turn themselves in. It often turned bloody, however.
Police claimed the suspects put up a fight.
“Let’s focus on identified persons. But of course, if they do not want to surrender, we will not stop just because human rights groups said so,” he told The Manila Times.
Albayalde also said the NCRPO was willing to collaborate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in apprehending drug suspects.
“We need all the help. It’s useless na magbangayan (to argue with one another). We have to work together. If focus sila sa high-value target, they should concentrate on high-value targets,” he said.
PDEA is leading in the government’s drug war. The PNP was removed from the anti-drug campaign in October 2017 following the rise of extrajudicial killings that were blamed on “Tokhang,” highlighted by the deaths of three teenagers who were accused of being drug dealers.
In December, Duterte brought the PNP back in the war on drugs to support PDEA.
Police killed almost 4,000 suspects in Duterte’s first 17 months in office as he followed through on his election campaign promise to eliminate drugs from Philippine society.
The crackdown has stoked controversy both in the Philippines and abroad.
Rights groups allege corrupt police are killing defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they kill.
A Philippine lawyer filed a suit at the International Criminal Court last year accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity, which the president rejects.
Duterte conceded in January last year that the police force was “corrupt to the core.” He has suspended them from the counter-narcotics campaign briefly on two occasions to quieten mounting opposition to his drug war.
But the president, who has said he would be “happy to slaughter” 3mn drug addicts, has on both occasions brought the police back to the drug war’s frontlines without any major reforms to eradicate corruption.
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