CHR bolts out of CAR’s move to use ‘Oplan Tokhang’ in ferreting out insurgency

Published February 25, 2021, 11:26 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

“Insurgency must be addressed, but it must be done with human rights at its core.”

Commission on Human Rights (MANILA BULLETIN)
Commission on Human Rights (MANILA BULLETIN)

This was stressed by Director Romel P. Daguimol of the Commission on Human Rights in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CHR-CAR) in justifying his withdrawal from the CAR resolution which adopted the “Oplan Tokhang” (knock and plea) strategy in addressing insurgency in the region.

“Oplan Tokhang” was adopted in 2018 by the government’s law enforcement agencies to ferret out traders and users of illegal drugs. Policemen, in particular, visit the houses of suspected illegal drugs traders and users.

Police operations under “Oplan Tokhang” resulted in the arrests of thousands of illegal drugs traders and users and in the deaths, not only of the suspects, but also of law enforcement agents.

However, “Oplan Tokhang” met resistance from residents who claimed their constitutional rights — particularly on privacy, against unreasonable search and seizure, due process, among others – are violated by law enforcement agents.

Under CAR’s version, “Oplan Tokhang” will be used to dissuade community residents from supporting insurgency.

Justifying the withdrawal of his signature from the CAR resolution, Daguimol said in a statement:

“After much thought and consideration, I have deemed it proper to withdraw my signature from the Resolution passed by the CAR Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee enjoining the use of a strategy similar to ‘Oplan Tokhang’ in dissuading communities from supporting insurgency, such as that waged by communist rebels.

“We continue to condemn terrorism, as well as the use of armed struggle to topple the government. But we continue to stand that activism is not a crime. Our people should be free to express legitimate dissent and grievances for the government to act on.

“With our concerns with ‘Oplan Tokhang’ and fears of red-tagging left unaddressed, supporting the said Resolution runs inconsistent with the official position of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

“As an independent national human rights institution, it is best that CHR maintains its observer status in this and similar committees. We will remain as the conscience of the government, an independent voice, in ensuring that human rights standards are upheld in different levels of governance.

“Rest assured that we shall continue to partner with law enforcement agencies on the ground in the interest of the respecting and protecting the rights and dignity of all.”