By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
The return of “Oplan Tokhang” or “knock and plead campaign” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) last Monday was peaceful.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde clarified that police operatives in the new Tokhang tagged as “tokhangers” may not arrest suspected drug dependents but only urge them to seek medical help.
Drug dependents could proceed to the police station to surrender or seek rehabilitation voluntarily and would not be detained. Buy-bust operations would be directed at pushers outside of the Tokhang campaign.
Tokhangers could not enter houses of suspects without the owners’ permission or conduct operations outside office hours – from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Names of hostile suspects would be endorsed to drug enforcement units for “necessary operations”.
Still, even Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, PNP Chief, expressed that it would be impossible to give a 100 percent assurance that no blood would be shed in the new campaign.
This is precisely what many of our people, especially those living in the poor, congested areas of cities, now fear.
To them, the resurgence of Tokhang also means that death may soon come knocking on their doors in the form of the old “tokbang” (katok sabay “bang!” or knock and shoot).
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In the original Tokhang launched in July 2016, several drug suspects were killed every day. Apart from house-to-house operations and buy-busts conducted by the police, unidentified men riding in tandem on motorcycles gunned down users and pushers.
Lifeless bodies were also found sprawled on streets with their faces wrapped in packaging tapes, their hands tied with cardboard on their chests declaring them as pushers.
A father and his son, who were said to be pushers, were killed by the police in Pasay then for allegedly resisting arrest. A CCTV footage, however, revealed that they did not and were shown being led by police peacefully.
Without a doubt, I support the fight against illegal drugs done by the book. But apart from the police, who can say if a suspect being arrested was really armed and fought back (nanlaban)?
I hope the new Tokhang will not be a duplicate of its forerunner and pray that the new guidelines will be followed to the letter. Otherwise, death will just continue to haunt the poor who fear the police may yet revert it to Tokbang.
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