PDEA chief wants PNP to drop the term tokhang

Rambo Talabong
PDEA chief wants PNP to drop the term tokhang
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino says the term tokhang now means 'killing' for most of Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines – Language, as they say, evolves.

For Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino, the evolution  of the term “tokhang” has taken a bad turn and it needs to be scrapped soon.

Aquino gave his observation during a Monday, December 11, briefing after reporters asked what was his advice to the PNP in crafting new drug war guidelines.

“For us, sa (in) PDEA, I suggest there will be no more slogans, no more ‘Tokhangs’ no more ‘Double Barrels,’ just plain buy-bust operations. Simple lang naman ‘yan eh (it’s just simple),” Aquino said.

Oplan Double Barrel is the PNP’s war on drugs campaign plan which encompasses Oplan Tokhang. The latter is literally a combination of the words toktok and hangyo, to originally mean “knock-and-plead” operations. 

However, in the government’s ongoing war on drugs, the term tokhang has gained notoriety as people now associate it with the killings of thousands of drug personalities in past two years.

Because of the infamy of the word “tokhang,”  Aquino said, its original meaning has changed and this burdens rather than helps the PNP in executing its campaign.

“Tokhang is just to appeal to the drug personality to surrender. That’s it. Pero ang connotation ng Tokhang sa karamihan ng masa is killing. ‘Gusto mong ma-Tokhang ka?’ Ano ba ang ibig sabihin no’n? ‘Gusto mong mamatay ka?’ ‘Yun ang nagiging connotation eh. Kaya dapat itigil na ang Tokhang na word kasi it’s misleading, at people give a bad connotation of Tokhang,” Aquino said.

(But the connotation of Tokhang to most of the masses means killing. ‘You wanna undergo Tokhang?’ What does that mean? ‘You wanna die?’. That’s the emerging connotation. That’s why they should stop the use of the Tokhang word because it’s misleading.)

Aquino is no stranger to the use of the term as he himself was the PNP’s regional director for Central Luzon before he was appointed to lead the PDEA.

The PDEA chief clarified that it was not the fault of the PNP that the word’s meaning has been blackened because it was previously a “good program” before the killings happened. (READ: 8.8M homes covered by TokHang when PNP led drug war)

Pero kapag titingnan mo kasi ang Tokhang, maganda naman ang ano eh, maganda naman ang programa na ‘yun eh. Sumama lang nang sumama dahil sa pagbibigay, na-mislabel ‘yung word na ito,” Aquino said.

(If you are going to look at the program, it is already good program. It just worsened because it has been mislabeled.)

In a phone interview with Rappler, he added that he does not want the program to be junked entirely, but just the use of the term.

Wala na siyang tawag. Pero part pa rin ‘yung operations na pagtoktok at pagsurrender,” he said. (It won’t be called anything. But the knocking and surrendering will remain in operations.) – Rappler.com


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.


Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.