PNP out of drug war means end to 'tokhang,' buy-bust


MANILA, Philippines – It was a surprise to many, including the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), when President Rodrigo Duterte decided to put a stop to all police operations related to illegal drugs.

Medyo (A little),” was Dela Rosa’s response on Monday, January 30 when asked if he was surprised by his boss’ decision.

He added: “You can just imagine the full machinery of the PNP… that has been fully focused on the war on drugs. [And then] suddenly you stop, freeze. That’s the decision of the President.”

Dela Rosa’s announcement of the President's decision – made shortly after the oath-taking of newly-promoted police personnel – came hours after Duterte abolished the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) and a few days after the PNP came under fire in a Senate probe into the killing of a South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo. Several AIDG members allegedly committed the crime.

“We have to focus our efforts towards internal cleansing. And by the time we cleanse PNP, the President will determine that and he will instruct us to go back on the war on drugs. But right now, no more drug operations,” said Dela Rosa, echoing Duterte’s orders mere hours earlier.

But what does that mean for the PNP? Rappler lists down what we know so far:

End of Oplan Tokhang. Local police units – which usually spearhead the literal “knock and plead” operation in villages – will have to desist. Tokhang is a mix of the Bisaya words “toktok (to knock)” and “hangyo (to plead).” It's a creation of Dela Rosa himself, back when he was Davao City police chief.

More than 1.1 million “drug personalities” – suspected users and pushers – have surrendered as a result of the warrant-less operations. Last week, a group of lawyers filed a case before the Supreme Court to question the controversial police operation.

No “police-initiated operations” too. This means policemen are not allowed to apply for or serve search warrants linked to illegal drugs. Buy-bust operations are suspended. A “buy-bust” is when police pose as drug buyers and they catch suspects red-handed.

“Administrative aspects” are okay. According to Dela Rosa, this includes “declaring drug free barangays (villages) in coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and Local Government Units, coordination with stakeholders and non-governmental organizations for localized rehabilitation programs.”

Arresting someone in the act of committing a crime is okay. “If a crime is happening in your presence, you see someone selling drugs in front of you… you’re a cop and you need to act on that… it’s a reactive operation," said the PNP chief. 

Serving arrest warrants are okay too. “That won’t stop because that’s plain and simply anti-crime operations. If you’re a drug pusher and you have a warrant of arrest, it’s okay because that’s an anti-crime operation,” explained Dela Rosa.

While the PNP pulls out of the war on drugs, it will shift its efforts to 7 “focus crimes” as well as their internal "cleansing" campaign to weed the organization of bad eggs.

“We had it coming. Those misgivings came from us, so the President decided that way. People from our ranks did wrong things. If we had been able to control this, things would’ve run smoothly,” he said.

The PDEA, which by law is the lead agency in all anti-illegal drugs efforts, will now lead the anti-drug campaign. –