By Martin Sadongdong
Responding to an academe-based study which showed alleged flaws in the anti-illegal drug campaign of the government, the Philippine National Police (PNP) disclosed Monday that it is open to suggestions that would help improve its law enforcement operations.
Police General Oscar Albayalde, PNP Chief, said there is no problem for them to take in constructive criticisms from different groups and organizations to further improve the drug war campaign.
This, after the Ateneo Police Center released Friday the results of a study conducted by the Drug Archive, a database jointly culled by the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU) and University of the Philippines (UP), which raised possible human rights violations in Oplan Tokhang (knock and plead).
The study said Oplan Tokhang has violated a number of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the drug suspects including their rights to privacy, due process, counsel, information and health of the subject of the operation.
It also claimed that more than 7,000 drug suspects have already been killed in the drug war which is comparatively higher than the 5,281 fatalities recorded by the PNP from July 1, 2016, to February 28, 2019.
“I welcome the release of findings and conclusions of a study made by the Ateneo Policy Center on the PNP anti-drug campaign, particularly on the left-hand approach that encourages drug offenders to submit themselves to voluntary rehabilitation and reform,” Albayalde said.
“As we have said, we are willing to listen and engage all sectors, including the academe, that is concerned and willing to assist the PNP in the fight against illegal drugs,” he added.
According to Albayalde, he ordered the Directorate for Operations, led by Police Major General Mao Aplasca, and Directorate for Police Community Relations, led by Police Major General Benigno Durana, to “get in touch with the proponent of the study for a discussion to further improve our campaign.”
Albayalde reiterated that the drug war refers to the national government’s Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded. He explained that the “soft barrel” is the Oplan Tokhang while the “hard barrel” is the Oplan High-Value Target (HVT).
In Oplan Tokhang, the police knock on the houses of alleged drug personalities to convince them to surrender and undergo rehabilitation. In Oplan HVT, police operations are carried out such as the service of search and arrest warrants, and buy-busts.
“It should be understood that Oplan Tokhang is essentially a Police Community Relations operation that supports the overall anti-drug strategy. In Oplan HVT, it is unfortunate that there had been some incidents wherein operations turned awry when the subject offered armed resistance to police intervention,” Albayalde said.
“Unfortunate situations like these obscured the well-meaning intentions to Tokhang and associated it with violation of certain rights. And this is how the negative ‘labeling’ of Tokhang started, more so, the bloated figure of 7,000 deaths attributed to it by the Ateneo study,” he stressed.
Oplan Tokhang became controversial since the majority of drug war deaths in the initial implementation of the drug war was attributed to it.
However, Albayalde clarified that no drug suspect was killed in Oplan Tokhang. He said the fatalities are usually in the conduct of buy-bust operations and service for warrants which fall under Oplan HVT.
The country’s top cop said Oplan Tokhang is only an “innovative approach” to encourage drug suspects to change their ways which were not achieved in previous strategies made by law enforcement agencies.
“We understand that it is easier to criticize. We welcome suggestions and even constructive criticism but only if these can offer a solution,” he concluded.