Dela Rosa jokes to crowd: Clap your hands or face Tokhang

Pia Ranada
Dela Rosa jokes to crowd: Clap your hands or face Tokhang
'Kung ayaw 'nyo pumalakpak, bukas ipa-Tokhang ko kayo sa pulis,' says the former police chief who masterminded the controversial Oplan Tokhang

LAGUNA, Philippines – Senatorial candidate Ronald dela Rosa has taken to using the government’s controversial crackdown on illegal drugs as humorous references during his campaign speeches.

Dela Rosa, a candidate of President Rodrigo Duterte, joked during a rally in Calamba City, Laguna, that those in the audience who don’t applaud him could face “Tokhang.” Oplan Tokhang is the name of the police anti-drug operation he had led as Duterte’s first Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

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.)

“Tokhang” has become so often used in news and even in popular culture that it has become a verb which many use to refer to the act of killing.

“Tokhang” was even declared the 2018 word of the year at Sawikaan 2018 at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Oplan Tokhang was Dela Rosa’s brainchild. It is a composite of two words, “toktok,” which means to knock, and “hangyo,” which means to plead.

The operation supposedly involves merely knocking on the doors of drug addicts in a community and asking them to stop their bad habits. But because of the thousands of killings during police operations and the mysterious killings associated with the drug war, the word “Tokhang” had taken on a more sinister meaning. (READ: How the new Oplan Tokhang should be done)

The crowd in Calamba, however, laughed heartily at Dela Rosa’s joke. They also cheered loudly when he said he would ensure the continuity of the campaign against illegal drugs.

Sa pagtakbo kong ito, mayroon akong ipinaglalaban. Ang pinaglalaban ko po ay hindi kalusugan, hindi medisina, hindi pagkain, hindi edukasyon, kung ‘di buhay, buhay ng libu-libong kabataang Pilipino na nasisira ang kinabukasan dahil sa iligal na droga,” said Dela Rosa.

(In my candidacy, I fight for something. What I fight for is not health, medicines, food, education, but lives of thousands of young Filipinos whose lives are destroyed by illegal drugs.)

Over 4,000 people have been killed in anti-drug operations conducted by law enforcers. Government claims all of these deaths were because suspects “fought back,” requiring police to use deadly force.

The police say there are 3,000 more “deaths under investigation” that are related to drugs. –

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at