By Aaron B. Recuenco
A “less bloody, if not bloodless” anti-drug campaign has been promised by Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), as the law enforcement body re-launched yesterday Project Double Barrel Reloaded, Tokhang Revisited and HVT (High-Value Target) Revalidated.
“This time, we will make sure that this will become less bloody if not bloodless campaign,” said Dela Rosa of the new start on the PNP’s anti-drug campaign.
The PNP’s renewed effort to fight illegal drugs was marked yesterday with the launching of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group and the re-launching of the already existing anti-drugs campaign such as Project Double Barrel Reloaded, Tokhang Revisited and HVT (High-Value Target) Revalidated.
The anti-illegal drugs operations were put on hold last month following the kidnap-slay of a South Korean executive who was taken into custody under the guise of a police operation and other alleged abuses of some policemen.
Anti-illegal drugs operations
Project Double Barrel refers to the agency’s two-pronged approach that targets street drug pushers and suppliers. “Operation Tokhang” is when the cops visit the houses of suspected drug pushers or users, to appeal to them and their families to change.
The “High-Value Target Revalidation” focuses on identification of government officials and other prominent personalities involved in the illegal drugs trade.
Dela Rosa admitted that he received the go-signal for the PNP to restart the campaign from the President last week. But he said he had to request for ample time to organize a team that could be trusted to carry out the illegal drugs operations.
“I requested for ample time because we want to make sure that the mistakes committed in the past will not be repeated,” said Dela Risa.
Drug Enforcement Group
The PNP-DEG replaces the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group which was abolished after at least four of its men, including an officer with a rank equivalent to lieutenant colonel in the military, were implicated in the kidnap-slay of a South Korean executive who was taken under a guise of police operation and was later killed right inside Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Less bloody campaign
While assuring a less bloody anti-drugs campaign, Dela Rosa admitted that it would be difficult to promise a bloodless operation as cornered drug personalities choose to fight it off with lawmen.
“Our aim is a bloodless campaign if possible, but this is war, so what may happen is less bloody,” said Dela Rosa.
“Basta walang lumalaban, walang dadanak ng dugo (If no one puts up a fight, there will be no blood shed),” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, De la Rosa explained that the PNP will try a new approach in the implementation of its Oplan Tokhang, this time involving the priests, barangay officials and the chief of police.
He said they will be inviting priests, imam and even leaders of other religious groups to go with the police when they conduct house visitation.
“We will include the barangay officials and priests in the community because our emphasis here is the accountability of the commanders,” said Dela Rosa.
“But this is not only limited to Catholic Church, all the other religious groups are being considered here so we think this would really be good,” he added.
Not part of their work
Meanwhile, a former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said they need not accompany the police during the Oplan Tokhang as this is no longer part of their work.
“The intention is good but we each have our own work to do. I think it would be ironic to see priests there involved in police work,” retired Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said in an interview.
Like Cruz, Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP Public Affairs Committee, also said he does not see the need for priests to be part of the operations.
“There’s no need for priests to join Oplan Tokhang,” he said. “De la Rosa already claimed that there are enough safeguards to prevent abuses.”
He said the church will support whatever strategy there is, for as long as “there’s no killing and it is devoid of any corrupt and unjust practice.”
Cruz expressed hope that the openness shown by the PNP chief will put a stop to the killings.
“They are open to being accompanied by churchmen to show that they don’t just kill people and I think that is what will happen now. Unlike before the killings are left and right,” he said.
Senior Supt. Graciano Mijares, the appointed commander of the PNP-DEG, said they will be conducting a screening process to complete the lineup of the newly-created anti-narcotics unit of the PNP.
“We will scrutinize all the personnel who will be joining, we want to put the right persons in this job,” said Mijares.
The PNP wants to prevent the repeat of the Jee Ick-joo case wherein the entire anti-drugs war was affected with the involvement of a handful of erring cops allegedly led by Supt. Rafael Dumlao and SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel.
A total of 2,512 drug personalities were killed in legitimate police operations across the country from July 2016 to January this year, while 51,882 others were arrested. Some 1.2 million drug personalities surrendered while the cops were able to visit 6.8 million houses in their Oplan Tokhang.
The latest figure in the so-called “Death Under Investigation” is 2,928 deaths from July 1 to December 15. (With a report from Leslie Ann G. Aquino)
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