LOOK: 'Santa Bato' gives gifts to kids of Tokhang surrendered
MANILA, Philippines – He was dressed in a bright red suit, complete with a fake white beard and spectacles.
But the “Santa Claus” who showed up at the SM Megamall on Thursday, December 1, was no ordinary man – it was Ronald dela Rosa, the 4-star police general who heads the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Dela Rosa led a gift-giving activity organized by the PNP’s Police Community Relations Group (PCRG).
The recipients? Children of “surrendered” drug personalities under the PNP’s “Oplan Tokhang,” a literal knock-and-plead operation where police weed out suspected drug users and pushers.
To date, police have visited more than 4.3 million houses and have tallied over 800,000 “surrendered” drug suspects.
But not all “Tokhang” operations are peaceful.
Most of the kids at the gift-giving event had one parent killed because of police anti-illegal drugs operations, Dela Rosa told reporters.
“Since most of these children lost a parent, a father, to our ongoing war on drugs, we want to compensate this loss, their sadness, with somehow a little feeling of happiness that they see it’s Christmas and the police want them to be happy even if their father died because of our operations in the war on drugs,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
He added: “So gusto ng pulis na bumawi, bumawi man rin sa mga bata (The police want to make up to these kids). These children are innocent of whatever their parents did in the past. Ang kasalanan ni Pedro, hindi kasalanan ni Jose (Pedro’s sins are not Jose’s sins).”
Dela Rosa handed out gifts to children – from toy police cars to stuffed animals – in an event sponsored by various commercial companies and the SM Group. The children came from the different districts in the jurisdiction of the National Capital Region Police Office.
A few hours before the Megamall event, Dela Rosa in a press briefing said the PNP would be placed under “terror alert level 3,” following the discovery of an improvised bomb near the United States Embassy earlier this week.
Dela Rosa explained that he didn’t want to “dampen the spirit of Christmas,” reacting to negative comments online about his appearance in a Santa Claus costume.
“It means that we are not afraid of him. I want the public to feel that we are secure. I want the people to know that we are doing everything we can to secure the public,” he added.
Dela Rosa leads the PNP in President Rodrigo Duterte’s popular but controversial war on drugs. Since July 1, police have arrested over 38,000 drug personalities all over the country. But it’s the death toll – of more than 5,600 – that has sparked indignation from groups both here and abroad.
Police have killed 2,004 drug suspects in operations while the rest of deaths are apparent vigilante-style killings that are “under investigation.” (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs') – Rappler.com