By Hannah Torregoza
Detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday berated administration senatorial candidate Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa for using the Duterte government’s “Oplan Tokhang” as a joke to solicit applause from the public during campaign sorties.
De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs, told dela Rosa that “Oplan Tokhang” –the government’s controversial crackdown on suspected illegal drug suspects—is no laughing matter.
The detained senator reminded the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief that no one should take the suffering of the families of the victims of the government’s war on drugs lightly.
“Libu-libong kababayan natin ang napaslang sa Oplan Tokhang at patuloy pa ring nabibiktima ng pekeng kampanya laban sa droga ng rehimeng Duterte (Thousands of our people were slain in the ‘Oplan Tokhang’ and a lot of people are still being victimized by the Duterte regime’s fake drug war),” de Lima said in her latest statement.
“Tila ba normal na lang talaga kay dating PNP Chief De la Rosa ang karahasang dulot nito kaya ganoon na lang kadali para sa kanya na gawin itong biro (It seems this sort of violence is normal for former PNP Chief De la Rosa that he turns it into a joke). But it’s neither funny nor amusing,” de Lima pointed out.
During a rally in Calamba City, Laguna, Dela Rosa—whose senatorial bid is personally backed by President Rodrigo Duterte—had told those in the audience who don’t applaud him could face “Tokhang.”
It was Dela Rosa, then PNP chief, who led the implementation of “Oplan Tokhang”—the term used by the police for their anti-drug operation under the Duterte administration—on a national scale.
Since Duterte resumed office, the reported number of suspected drug offenders killed either through the so-called “legitimized” police operations or vigilante style reached to more than 27,000.
“Kung ayaw ‘nyo pumalakpak, bukas ipa-Tokhang ko kayo sa pulis. O palakpakan kayo lahat diyan,” he said on Saturday, March 9, at the Rizal City Plaza. (If you don’t want to clap your hands, tomorrow, I will order the police to subject you to Tokhang. So now, everyone claps),” Dela Rosa was quoted as saying.
The former justice secretary, however, said that if Dela Rosa really cared about the welfare of the ordinary Juan de la Cruzes – especially the poor – as he proclaimed it, he should be extra sensitive to their emotions.
“Only sick people would dare make a joke out of ‘Tokhang’ and its innocent victims for the sake of gaining public attention and securing votes in the upcoming midterm elections. So insensitive!” de Lima exclaimed.
“He should know better, that his foul jokes about ‘Oplan Tokhang’ can reopen past wounds and cause these people more pain and agony,” she said.
“Imbes na gawing katatawanan ang isyu ng mga patayan na ibinubunsod ng Tokhang, mas mabuti kung ilatag niya ang kanyang plano kung paano matutuldukan ang karahasan at kung paano mabibigyan ng katarungan ang mga biktima ng EJK, (Instead of using ‘Tokhang’ as a joke, he should have laid out his plans on how to put an end to the violence and give justice to the victims of extrajudicial killings),” de Lima pointed out.