PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa announced on Thursday that he was scrapping the anti-illegal drug operations called “Oplan Tokhang”, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the government’s anti-narcotics agency to take the lead in the drug war.
De la Rosa said the PNP would now focus on other criminal activities, particularly those involving motorcycle-riding suspects, also known as “riding in tandem”, because they attack in pairs.
De la Rosa also vowed to clean up the ranks of the PNP and tighten its “internal cleansing” process in which “rogue policemen” would be relieved and undergo retraining to be “fit” again for service.
However, de la Rosa reiterated that critics of the war on drugs did not win with the removal of PNP in anti-drug operations because PDEA would continue what the police had started.
On October 3, de la Rosa was called to task for calling these critics “ingrates”, claiming even they benefitted from the campaign against illegal drugs.
De la Rosa said PDEA was always welcome to ask for help from the police in gathering information for its anti-drug operations.
Earlier on Thursday, Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said “Oplan Tokhang” was not part of Duterte’s directive that listed the tasks of the PNP following the transfer of authority in carrying out the campaign against illegal drugs from the police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“[Oplan Tokhang] is not here. It’s not in the implementing order. So we will now be using enhanced managing police operations to comply,” Carlos said.
Carlos said, however, that based on the same directive, the PNP was not totally cut out the war on drugs. He said that although the police were off limits in the anti-drug operations, they could still assist in gathering intelligence.
“If you read the presidential directive, it says here that the law based from the presidential directive shall not mean the diminution of the investigative power of all the law enforcement agencies in the PNP,” Carlos said.
Carlos clarified that the directive to make PDEA the lead agency in the war on drugs was based on the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002” and did not lessen the mandate of PNP.
“Our task is specific here that we will relay, forward immediately to the PDEA any information or investigation,” Carlos said.
Also according to the presidential directive, the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG) will also be limited to police reports and intelligence gathering regarding drug-related cases.
“So the PDEG will now limit its function immediately to the submission of these drug-related reports and information in compliance with the presidential directive,” Carlos said.
Carlos assured the public that PNP would still continue to “serve the people”. However, he said police would focus on crimes not related to illegal drugs like national security.
“What we will be doing because of this new directive is all units are now directed to focus all operations on anti-criminality, internal security operations, and anti-terrorism,” Carlos said.
When he assumed the top police post in 2016, de la Rosa introduced “Oplan Tokhang” as part of the President’s campaign against illegal drugs.
First implemented in Davao City where Duterte had served as mayor for many years, “Tokhang” was a Visayan word for Tok-tok Hangyo, according to The Manila Times research.
This is where police personnel knock on the doors of alleged users or pushers, asking them to surrender to the police so that they could be monitored for further assessment.
The program was successful in Davao City which, at one time, was ranked as the fourth safest city in the world.
Its implementation nationwide was blamed for the extrajudicial killings, (EJKs) alarming local and international human rights advocates who asked Duterte to stop his drug war.