Prepare for Tokhang: Cops begin hunting convicts

Rambo Talabong, Lian Buan
Prepare for Tokhang: Cops begin hunting convicts
Reminiscent of the controversial Oplan Tokhang, cops will go to the addresses of the remaining hundreds of GCTA-freed heinous crime convicts, knock on their doors, and arrest them

MANILA, Philippines – A knock and plead or TokHang-style operation will be implemented by the police as they begin a nationwide manhunt Friday, September 20, for the remaining hundreds of heinous crime convicts who have not surrendered yet.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said that as of 11 pm Thursday, September 19, the number of surrenderers have reached 1,717 out of the total 1,914. These heinous crime convicts were released on the basis of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

“This will be our last bulletin as we shall now firm up the list to be transmitted to Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG),” Perete said.

Overnight ops

At 12 midnight Friday, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) began their operations, visiting the registered homes of about a hundred convicts in Metro Manila.

They aim to finish the operation by 6 am.

NCRPO chief Major General Guillermo Eleazar had said a total of 26 police stations would take part in the overnight operations.

Reminiscent of the controversial Oplan Tokhang, cops will go to the addresses, knock on their doors, and look for the suspect.

This time, however, there will be no requests. Based on President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal order – which is backed by the DOJ – they will be arrested without a warrant.

“Once the deadline lapses, they’re being considered as fugitives, we will look for them,” Eleazar said in a press briefing on Thursday morning.

Eleazar warned that family and friends who would keep them could be arrested too.

“Those who will be harboring them, these fugitives, they will be charged of harboring criminals or fugitives,” Eleazar said.

Dead or alive?

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has tried to assuage fears by saying that Duterte’s “dead or alive” order “should not be taken literally.”

Eleazar said they will follow their procedures and exercise “maximum tolerance” during the arrests, but if the convicts “get aggressive,” cops may retaliate.

As for the President’s tease of a P1-million prize money per convict, Eleazar said they have not received updates on it.

“In the case of the PNP, with or without a reward, we will do our jobs and that is to run after the fugitives,” he said.

The hunt list

The list that the DOJ transmitted to the DILG – and to the cops – contains the names of heinous crime convicts who did not surrender within the 15-day deadline.

“We removed from the list those who have already surrendered who are already in the custody of the Bureau of Corrections,” said Perete.

Perete added: “The list that we will be giving may include those who have surrendered to the relevant police units but precisely because this list will be in the hands of our police officers they would know if these individuals have already surrendered and therefore they’d be in a better position to say that we don’t need to find this individual because they have already surrendered.”

The 1,707 surrenderers may not necessarily be all heinous crime convicts, as the Philippine National Police said there were some non-heinous crime prisoners who turned themselves in just to double check. 

Those prisoners will be released eventually for being qualified under the revised rules of the GCTA law.

The freed convicts will be brought to the nearest police station for booking procedures and medical examinations. The police will then coordinate with the Bureau of Corrections for turnover. –

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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.


Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.