Anti-drug war fouled up in ground implementation – Cascolan

Published October 17, 2020, 11:45 AM

by Aaron Recuenco 

The government’s aggressive campaign against illegal drugs is a good and clean policy that fouled up during its implementation on the ground, Philippine National Police chief Police Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan said.

Police Lt. Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascola (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cascolan said that even Vice President Leni Robredo, a critic of the brutal and bloody drug war, has agreed that there is nothing wrong with “Oplan: Double Barrel” of which “Oplan: Tokhang” is part of.

Oplan: Tokhang originated from two Visayan words “tuktok” (which means to knock) and “hangyo” (to plead) and was first implemented in Davao City where policemen and barangay officials would knock on the houses of suspected drug pushers and users and ask them to stop their illegal drug activities or suffer the consequences.

When it was implemented nationwide in July 2016, Oplan Tokhang got the notorious meaning of extra-judicial killings, brutal and bloody killings of suspected drug personalities and violation of human rights that include deaths of children that served as collateral damage in the drug war.

“Even the Vice President said that it is clean, she said there is nothing wrong with the Oplan. The problem was when it was implemented by some officers of the Philippine National Police that’s why there are a lot of cases that we are having right now against those PNP personnel who have violated the rule of law and human rights,” said Cascolan in a press briefing during his visit to Iloilo.

He cited as an example the cases of South Korean executive Jee Ick Joo who was kidnapped from his house in Angeles City under the guise of anti-drugs operations by PNP anti-drugs personnel and agents of the National Bureau of Investigation.

Jee was taken to Camp Crame in Quezon City where he was strangled to death and later cremated. Although he was already dead, some personnel of now defunct Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF) demanded at least P5-million ransom. 

In the case of 17-year old Kian delos Santos, Caloocan City policemen made it appear that he traded shots with them by planting a gun on him. It was later found out that the cops executed Kian.

Cascolan said all the policemen involved in the two incidents, including an officer with a rank of lieutenant colonel, are now detained.

“Those PNP personnel involved are behind bars and there are still a lot of cases being evaluated,” said Cascolan.

“We are trying to reevaluate, and to come up with a lot of strategy on how we would be able to pursue it by removing graft and corruption in the PNP, follow the rule of law, no violations of human rights,” he added.

Since July 2016, more than 100 policemen have been arrested, charged, and dismissed from the service for extorting money from arrested drug suspects in exchange for dropping the cases.

But Cascolan said that the Oplan Double Barrel, which means a two-way approach against illegal drugs – the first is targeting street-level pushing and the other approach is against big-time drug traffickers – has achieved its purpose.

He said more than 1.5 million drug pushers and users surrendered and were accounted for.

The one million mark of surrenderers was achieved in the first one year of the drug war. But experts said the problem with it is that there was no immediate plan, like rehabilitation, for those who surrendered.

Some of those who surrendered were later killed either in police operations or by alleged drug-war inspired vigilante groups. 

More or less 6,000 drug personalities were killed since 2016 but thousands more were killed by vigilante groups, with some groups alleging that the perpetrators are policemen themselves who turned the list of those who surrendered into a hit list amid allegations that there are rewards for killing drug pushers and users. 

The PNP, however, repeatedly denied the allegation, saying they also lost a number of policemen in the drug war.