PNP kills ‘Tokhang’
BIÑAN CITY—With the Philippine National Police demoted from the lead role in President Duterte’s war on drugs, PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, folded “Oplan Tokhang” and “Project Double Barrel” on Thursday.
Oplan Tokhang is the police door-to-door campaign to convince drug users to surrender for rehabilitation.
Project Double Barrel is the intensified campaign against the narcotics trade, characterized by police sweeps of the slums in which the PNP says officers have killed more than 3,800 suspects who resisted arrest since Mr. Duterte launched the campaign after taking office in June last year.
More than 2,000 others have been killed by unknown assailants, who human rights groups believe are hired guns working for the police or are policemen themselves working for rewards promised by their superiors.
Public anger over the killings, especially of minors, pulled down Mr. Duterte’s approval and trust ratings in opinion polls, forcing him to demote the PNP from the lead in his antinarcotics program.
Speaking to reporters in Malacañang on Thursday, Mr. Duterte said he decided to make the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) the lead agency in the fight against illegal drugs because few had been killed in its operations.
“This is better or betterer, do you say,” Mr. Duterte said. “There were no deaths, so there would be no encounter. So better for you bleeding hearts and the media. I hope I will satisfy you.”
But Dela Rosa, who unabashedly cried in the Senate over criticism of the brutality of the campaign, said on Thursday that he was “sad” about
Mr. Duterte’s decision to take away the lead role in the war on drugs from the PNP and give it to the PDEA.
“We poured all our energy into this campaign but it did not totally succeed,” the PNP chief told reporters in Biñan City, where he attended the launching of a rehabilitation program for drug users.
Dela Rosa said he doubted the PDEA’s capability to carry out the war on drugs with its 1,700 agents, compared with the PNP force of more than 185,000. “I don’t know their tack on the (drug) problem,” he said.
Drug units dissolved
He said the only ones happy about the President’s decision were the drug lords and drug pushers, who were probably saying “back to business, back to business.”
“Now that we are pulling back, I don’t know if the crime rates would rise again,” he added.
Besides Oplan Tokhang and Project Double Barrel, the PNP also dissolved its drug enforcement units, from regional offices down to police stations throughout the country.
Director Camilo Cascolan, head of the PNP Directorate for Operations, said the force would now focus on reducing street crimes.
Among the street crimes to be tackled by the PNP are killings by motorcycle-riding gunmen, which Cascolan described as the crime “now destroying the reputation and credibility of the PNP.”
Human rights campaigners say the drive-by shootings are the work of hired guns working for the PNP in the war on drugs or are policemen themselves out to collect rewards that come with the campaign.
The PNP denies having a hand in those mostly nighttime attacks, saying they are carried out by drug gangs fighting over turf.
Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, spokesperson for the PNP, told a news conference on Thursday that the police campaign that lasted more than a year would bear out the PNP.
He said the PNP carried out 80,000 operations against illegal drugs throughout the country in running the campaign.
The campaign, he said, “reached out to the lives of those affected by the drug menace—1.3 million” people.
He said the PNP assessment was that the police campaign was 95 percent “to provide [an] opportunity [for rehabilitation] for the people who are affected by drugs.”
The other 5 percent, or 109,000 drug offenders, were arrested alive, he said.
Carlos said all this was “almost 99.9908 percent of the campaign.”
Malacañang said that by designating the PDEA as lead agency in the war on drugs, the government was just shifting the focus of the campaign against narcotics.
“What happened was the street distribution networks of the drug lords have
been degraded,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said, referring to the police campaign.
“So we now target higher echelons of the syndicates as well as their protectors in the government,” he said.
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