“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 on Thursday.
“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 recognized),” 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.
Five drug suspects were killed in Bulacan as authorities again ramped up a drug war that has drawn warnings that President Rodrigo Duterte may be overseeing a crime against humanity.
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 latest police killings occurred Wednesday in Bulacan province, a frontline in the crackdown, where police said five suspects were “neutralized” — a term rights groups said was a euphemism for killings.
Ninety-five others were arrested in dozens of sting operations, according to a provincial police report.
The five deaths in Bulacan equal the number of drug-related killings in the previous five weeks, according to official data.
The crackdown has stoked controversy both in the Philippines and abroad.
Rights groups allege corrupt police are killing defenseless 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” three million drug addicts, has on both occasions brought the police back to the drug war’s frontlines without any major reforms to eradicate corruption.