By Martin Sadongdong
For the sake of transparency, third-party groups such the media, the Church and human rights watch organizations are welcome to join the anti-illegal drugs operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) once the “Oplan Tokhang” (knock and plead) comes back in full force this month.
Chief Superintendent Dionado Carlos, PNP spokesperson, said some members of the media used to join police units in their operations during the previous version of Oplan Tokhang. Now, even members of churches and human rights watch groups are welcome to join provided that they are equipped with proper gears such as safety helmets and vests.
“I know that there are networks that have already their protective gear for their reporters, you’re welcome to join. It has also been opened to other sectors (like) churches, human rights watch groups or those under the CHR (Commission on Human Rights),” Carlos said.
“As long as you have a request or endorsement to the local unit, you will be accommodated,” he added.
However, Carlos clarified that there would be certain limitations, especially if the ground troops consider it very dangerous to let any third-party group join in their operations.
“Our pledge is that we will never let you get hurt. If our police on the ground know it’s dangerous…. you might get hurt,” he said.
However, it is not a hidden fact that it is quite hard to secure a permission from the local police units to join in the operations.
Meanwhile, Carlos stated that the “true spirit” of Oplan Tokhang, which is to knock on the houses of the drug personalities and encourage them to turn their backs on nefarious activities, would still be followed.
“It’s a visit. If the subject knows that he or she is a drug personality, then the police will encourage them–not force–to have a dialogue. That’s why we include barangay officials. Just be calm. If the police visits you, they are there to talk to you, to encourage you to change. If you think you are not a drug dependent or drug user, then you can deny it,” he explained.
“We don’t violate to be able to implement. We do not violate the domicile, we don’t trespass, we do it in a proper manner to inform the person that he/she is included in the drugs watchlist and provide him/her the opportunity to change.
“If the subject says he/she is not a drug personality, then no. Now if you violate the law and (we find out) you’re using and pushing drugs, then we will perform our mandate of stopping them from committing a crime. We conduct an operation,” he added.
The PNP spokesperson claimed that 95 percent of the 1,039,000 drug personalities they have reached were given the chance to join various community-based drug rehabilitation programs. About 4.98 percent were arrested while the remaining 0.02 percent were shot dead in legitimate police operations.
However, various arrests in the previous Oplan Tokhang resulted in the death of drug personalities in what police said were cases of “resistance” or “nanlaban.”