Tokhang Re-launched: What the Public Needs to Know
THE PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) has re-launched Oplan Tokhang for the third time on Monday, January 29. The program has moved back and forth between the jurisdiction of the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). (“A Game of Musical Chairs: Drug War Back to PDEA”) President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the PNP in December 2017 to resume its active support to PDEA which remains the lead implementer of the government’s war on drugs.
How does this newest version of Tokhang differ from its past incarnations?
“We want to implement the real spirit of Oplan Tokhang na successful sa Davao. Hindi ‘Tokbang’, katok tapos bang!” PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa said before the re-launch. “The spirit of ‘Tokhang,’ if implemented properly, is bloodless. That’s why it’s called knock and plead.”
PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said the new guidelines are more specific in order to prevent the kind of lapses which caused so many so-called “drug personalities” to die.
Despite PNP’s reassurance, there were still reports of drug-related killings hours before the official roll-out of the PNP guidelines for the implementation of the new program.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that four suspects were already killed in separate police operations in Mindanao. (“Tally in return of ‘Tokhang’ in Mindanao: 4 dead”)
Two more were killed in Quezon City on the eve of Tokhang’s return according to a report by The Manila Times. (“‘Tokhang’ resumes, PNP under tight watch”)
CMFR cheers several media organizations for reporting the new Oplan Tokhang directives in detail.
Rappler published a thorough report on the Oplan Tokhang’s guidelines. It broke down the instructions into seven steps and further categorized them into three phases, detailing what happens in every phase from the creation and training of teams to conduct tokhang, pre-deployment preparations, to documentation of cases and referrals of those who surrendered. Rappler also noted how the police and their respective chiefs will be held accountable in case of negligence. (“How the ‘new’ Oplan Tokhang should be done”)
Sun.Star Manila also gave a detailed report on the new guidelines, highlighting with an explanation of the one strike policy. According to the report the precinct commander will be relieved from the post if even only one of his “tokhangers” fail to properly observe the guidelines while chief of police (COP), provincial director (PD) and regional director will be relieved if two or more of their precinct commanders, COPs and PDs violate the rules. (“What you need to know about Oplan Tokhang”)
ABS-CBN news also summarized the new guidelines in an infographic. (“TOKHANG RELOADED: PNP’s new guidelines”)
According to the PNP, residents who witness cops violating these guidelines should immediately report the cops to police stations where they belong to, or to local government officials. Residents can also call the PNP’s hotline listed on their website.
Such efforts deserve support but journalists should also watch out for possible black outs on news about police operations in certain areas. Journalists reporting on incidents should refer to these instructions, and keep an eye on how well other LGU officials, especially at the barangay level, promote public awareness about the government’s new approach.
Only an informed and vigilant public can check abuses, hopefully prevent grievous lapses in police discipline as the program unfolds. The press has a critical role in making sure the re-launch is real and genuine change.