Bato renews invitation for Church to join drug raids
DAVAO CITY—After the Catholic Church rejected his call for priests to join the police’s revitalized antidrugs campaign, Philippine National Police chief Director Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa reiterated his invitation, this time saying any church representative will do.
“So they could see what really takes place on the ground. It could appease them. It’s difficult if they only criticize,” he said.
Dela Rosa made the statement on Friday, two days after a 45-year-old man was gunned down here by still unidentified motorcycle-riding suspects.
The victim, Danilo Largo, was on his way to the barangay hall of Buhangin to surrender after being subjected to Oplan Tokhang the day before when he was shot dead.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier rejected Dela Rosa’s proposal for a PNP-Church partnership, saying priests need not join the rebranded police anti-illegal drug operations to support the drug fight.
“Whatever strategy there is, for as long as there’s no killing and it is devoid of any corrupt and unjust practice, the Church supports,” Fr. Jerome Secillano, director of CBCP’s public affairs committee, said in a statement.
Dela Rosa clarified that the invitation was not only for the Catholic Church but for representatives of other religious sects as well.
He said the presence of churchmen could soften drug suspects to yield peacefully instead of putting up violent resistance.
“If they see churchmen with the police and barangay officials, I think they will surrender peacefully,” Dela Rosa said.
Under the revitalized Oplan Tokhang, Dela Rosa said police operations would now be led by police chiefs. He said this was among the safety measures adopted to prevent scalawag policemen from taking advantage of suspects.
In defending its relaunched campaign against illegal drugs, PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said the war against drugs was meant to save the lives of an estimated 1.18 million drug addicts in the country.
“We brought back Tokhang to see if the 1.18 million who surrendered received the help they needed,” Carlos told reporters.
“Don’t they want drug pushers to change through Tokhang? Let’s look at what their recommendations are. They might be better. We will ask their participation,” he said.
Carlos said the PNP had created a community-based rehabilitation program with the local government units and the Department of Health.
He said these programs were now present in the grassroots to provide “recovery and wellness” to drug addicts.
“Again, the intention of Tokhang is to reach, knock on their doors and plead for them to change,” Carlos said.
“We want to make sure that drug users and pushers who want to change get the help they need,” he added.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines and human rights activists have launched their own “Counter-Tokhang” campaign. —ALLAN NAWAL AND PHILIP C. TUBEZA
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