Vice President and anti-drug czar Leni Robredo on Thursday said the police force vowed to rethink its controversial anti-drug campaign “Oplan Tokhang.”
The newly-installed co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) met with the body’s law enforcement cluster, including Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Archie Gamboa.
Robredo said she reiterated her suggestion for the PNP to rethink the Oplan Tokhang campaign, which now has a negative connotation for its association with the deaths of drug suspects allegedly at the hands of the police. She said her suggestion was welcomed by the PNP.
“Kapag sinabi mong na-Tokhang, hindi maganda ang connotation, at agree naman sila. They promised to assess and come up with an improved version of what we already have,” she said in a chance interview after the meeting.
[Translation: When you say na-‘Tokhang,’ it doesn’t give a positive connotation, and they agreed. They promised to assess and come up with an improved version of what we already have.]
Oplan Tokhang is the flagship anti-drugs program of the Duterte administration. It is a play on the words “toktok,” or knock, and “hangyo,” or plead. Under the program, authorities visit suspected drug users’ homes and ask them to stop using illegal drugs. Tokhang, however, drew criticisms because of thousands of killings, mostly of small-time users in impoverished areas.
In October 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the Oplan Tokhang, which is under the Project Double Barrel — the all-out war against illegal drugs launched when Duterte took office in July 2016. Three months later, it resumed with new safeguards.
“Kapag binasa mo ang Project Double Barrel, maganda ang pagkalatag pero obviously may gaps kasi nagkaroon ng abuses on how it was implemented,” Robredo said.
[Translation: When you read about Project Double Barrel, you can see that it has good guidelines, but there were obviously gaps and abuses in its implementation.]
Other issues in the drug war
Robredo also stressed the need for clear baseline data on the real drug situation in the country. She said several government agencies have started to standardize the information system and consolidate all data of different agencies in order to measure the effectivity of the ongoing drug war.
“Ang hinihingi nating baseline ay maguumpisa sa listahan, simula noong 2016 ilan doon ang nag-surrender at arrested. Ilan ang kinasuhan, ano ang status ng mga kaso, ilan ang recommended na rehabilitation, at anong klaseng rehabilitation,” she said.
[Translation: We are asking for the list. The list of how many drug suspects and users surrendered or were arrested. We want the list of how many cases have been filed and the status of the cases. We want to see how many should be sent for rehabilitation.]
Government data shows around 6,000 have been killed in anti-drug operations since Duterte took office in July 2016. Local and international human rights groups say thousands more have died in extrajudicial killings as a result of the President’s public pronouncements, a claim Malacañang has repeatedly denied.
Robredo added that she also suggested setting short-term and mid-term goals that are achievable instead of declaring that the Philippines will be free of drugs by the end of their term.
“Sa akin, parating moving forward. Wala na tayong masyadong oras. Two and a half years na lang. Kailangan tayong maghabol,” she said.
[Translation: I like to always move forward. We are running out of time, there’s only 2 and a half years left. We have to act right away.]