MANILA, Philippines — There police will no longer implement “Oplan Tokhang.” But will the killings stop, too? Will there be justice for drug war victims?
These were the question posed by critics to the administration on Thursday, Oct. 12, after Philippine National Police chief Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa announced the termination of the PNP’s war on drugs campaign, whose implementation did not really end but was just transferred by President Rodrigo Duterte to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“It remains to be seen if the killings will stop under the PDEA’s lead. Right now, the people demand justice for Kian and all victims of extra-judicial killings in the Duterte regime’s fascist drug war,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. on Thursday, referring to Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos, who died in the hands of the police during an anti-illegal drug operation in Caloocan lat August 16.
The PNP relinquished its role to PDEA after Duterte on Tuesday, Oct. 10, issued a memorandum stating that PDEA will be the sole agency that can conduct anti-narcotics pursuant to Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002.
The President said he had issued the directive “in order to bring order to the operation/campaign against illegal drugs, thus pinpointing precise accountability.”
Duterte transfers anti-drugs ops to PDEA days after negative survey results on Tokhang
Duterte’s directive came out days after the Social Weather Stations released the following results of its surveys on the President’s pet campaign against illegal drugs and the chief executive’s net satisfaction rating:
‘Radical overhaul of anti-drug strategy needed’
But Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros said that “unless the government’s current anti-drug strategy is radically overhauled and the country’s security forces are thoroughly cleansed of scalawags, whether it is the PDEA or PNP, the anti-drug campaign will continue to be bloody, abusive and prone to corruption.”
“Hindi lang implementers ang may problema. Mas lalo na ang polisiya [It’s not only the implementers who have problems. The policy is more problematic]. Tokhang under the PDEA would still be Tokhang,” said Hontiveros.
“Instead of a mere changing of the guard in the government’s anti-drug campaign, what is needed is for Oplan Tokhang to be stopped and scrapped,” the lawmaker added.
Ways to effectively address PH drug problem
Hontiveros listed the following ways to more effectively address the country’s narcotics problem:
1. Implementation of a rules-based and modern drug law enforcement strategy wherein authorities will bring the campaign to the big-time drug lords instead of simply targeting the poor
“Our authorities must focus on crimes associated with big drug operations, such as money laundering and extortion. The government must also strengthen border control at international airports and seaports and heighten operations against cross-country narco-trafficking,” Hontiveros said.
2. Strengthening government’s public health approach to the drug problem
“The government must provide a comprehensive public health approach to the country’s drug policy and establish appropriate barangay-based programs and services for drug-related issues and concerns. I reiterate, more than a peace and order concern, the drug problem is a fundamental health issue,” she said.
3. Re-allocation of Tokhang budget to PNP provident fund
“As to the P900-million budget of the PNP for Oplan Tokhang, I will move for its reallocation to other important programs such as augmenting the provident fund of our rank-and-file police personnel, and their capability enhancement program,” said Hontiveros.
“Lastly, I will see to it that the investigation of the cases of extrajudicial killings that happened during the time of PNP-led Tokhang will push through,” the senator said.
Just because there is a changing of the guard in the government’s anti-drug campaign doesn’t mean that we’ve also had a change of heart in our pursuit of truth, justice and accountability. It’s deplorable that the government is tweaking its anti-drug campaign to simply address President Duterte’s declining public satisfaction and trust ratings,” she said.
“It seems that the government has high regard for survey results but not for people’s lives. We will not allow this government to sweep under the rug the atrocities of its bloody drug war,” added Hontiveros.