The Philippine National Police (PNP) will put in place measures to ensure transparency in the conduct of the government’s war on drugs.
PNP Directorate for Operations chief Director Camilo Cascolan said yesterday police officers involved in anti-drug operations will be required to wear body cameras to ensure transparency as the entire operation will be documented.
He said the PNP is finalizing the guidelines before resuming Oplan Tokhang this month.
He likewise urged drug suspects to report police scalawags who would extort money in exchange for the removal of their names from the watchlist of barangays.
“We will ensure they are dismissed from the service,” he said.
Members of drug enforcement teams would also undergo vetting and their performance evaluated on a regular basis to determine if they are keeping up with the tasks given to them.
“Each team will only have eight police officers to ensure accountability,” he added.
For the conduct of Oplan Tokhang, which means to knock and plead, Cascolan said the operating teams should be accompanied by barangay officials as well as representatives from educational institutions, religious sector and even the media.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Friday ordered field commanders to resume Tokhang, where policemen knock on the
doors of drug suspects and ask them to stop their illegal activities.
Tokhang had resulted in the surrender of around 1.3 million drug users and pushers and also the death of over 3,000 suspects in police operations.
The PNP stopped Oplan Tokhang and other operations against illegal drugs in October last year after President Duterte ordered the Philippine
Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead in the government’s campaign following public outcry over the killing of several minors in police drug operations.
Dela Rosa clarified that Tokhang is actually a bloodless initiative if implemented properly and that previous problems stemmed from police
scalawags who used the program for their own ends.
He warned police officers against using the program for personal gain.
The promise of a bloodless campaign against illegal drugs has not allayed fears of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that the relaunch of Oplan Tokhang would result in more deaths during police operations.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia yesterday reminded the PNP to carry out the drug campaign without violating the constitutional rights of Filipinos.
“The commission is concerned with the proposed resumption of Oplan Tokhang which has resulted to deaths of approximately 4,000 and at least 16,000 more which are pending investigation,” De Guia told The STAR.
“Last year’s guidelines state that the purpose of the visitation is for the PNP to recommend rehabilitation which we have not so far seen,” she added.
Despite the concern, De Guia maintained that the commission is supporting the government’s war against illegal drugs.
Earlier, CHR chairman Chito Gascon urged the police to follow operational procedures after President Duterte ordered the PNP to retake the lead in the war on drugs from the PDEA.
“We are hoping that with the return of the police in the operations against drugs, they will follow operations procedures on use of force and hopefully the number of deaths will not increase,” said Gascon.
“We assure the public that we in the CHR are ready to communicate with law enforcement agencies should they need to be reminded of their (human rights obligations) as mandated by the law,” he said.
The police leadership earlier defended the thousands of deaths during police operations, saying these were nanlaban cases or deaths resulting from encounters triggered by suspects who fired at the police.
The CHR has repeated doubted nanlaban claims, citing cases such as the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, who appeared to have been summarily executed by the police who conducted a raid in their community.
By characterizing the re-launching of Oplan Tokhang as one that would be bloodless, two senators said yesterday that this was in effect an admission by the PNP that the earlier implementation of its war on drugs was bloody.
Sen. Richard Gordon said the statement made by PNP chief Dela Rosa meant that some of his men were involved in shenanigans when Oplan Tokhang was implemented in the first year of Duterte’s term.
In an interview over radio dwIZ, Gordon said there was something wrong with Oplan Tokhang when the suspects being brought in for questioning end up dead in many instances.
He reminded the members of the PNP that the civil and human rights of all individuals, including suspects, must always be upheld whenever they conduct an anti-illegal drug operation.
Gordon reminded the police that whenever they invite suspects for questioning, the latter must always be accompanied by counsel, especially when their statements are being taken.
He said that Tokhang was unnecessary when the police could just do its job and investigate cases using normal legal procedures.
The problem with Tokhang was that there were individuals brought in for questioning who ended up dead in the precincts or along the way.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, led an inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial killings taking place in the country in relation to the war on drugs and concluded that there was no evidence of the killings being state-sanctioned.
He said that the crimes must be investigated and resolved faster so that the erring policemen would be punished right away.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the statement of Dela Rosa was an admission that the police were executing drug-related suspects in the past.
He noted how the police repeatedly used the self-defense excuse to kill the suspects before.
So with the guarantee of Dela Rosa that the new Oplan Tokhang will be bloodless, Trillanes said that it was as if the PNP chief was saying that there would be no incidents like this from now on.
“How can they say now that they (suspects) will no longer try to escape? This only means that they were executing them before,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes reiterated his warning to the members of the PNP that blindly following orders to kill drug-related suspects would land them in prison, maybe not during this administration, but immediately after President Duterte steps down from office.
On the part of Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto, he said Oplan Tokhang was abused, not by the PNP, but by the criminal elements that wanted to protect themselves by killing their runners on the ground.
According to Sotto, the good thing about the announcement of Dela Rosa of a bloodless Tokhang is that any policeman involved in unjustified killings would be held accountable immediately. – PhilStar-