Village 'TokHang': Disadvantage to say no to cops – NCRPO chief

MANILA, Philippines – The chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) says homeowners in exclusive or gated villages are at a disadvantage should they turn down the police force’s plan to conduct “Oplan Tukhang” in their areas.

“TokHang” is among the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s flagship operations in the so-called “war on illegal drugs.” The “knock and plead” operation involves cops literally knocking on the doors of suspected drug personalities – users and pushers alike – to ask them to end their ways.

To date, close to 600,000 users and pushers have surrendered to authorities as a result of the operation. In the first several weeks of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the PNP operation had concentrated mostly on poorer communities, prompting critics to say that it’s a war that’s biased against the poor.

But recently, residents of gated villages in Metro Manila reported getting memos from their village associations announcing a “modified” version of the operation in their areas.

“That’s in their own disadvantage, those in exclusive villages [if they say no to Tukhang] It’s better if they say yes because it’s a way to find out who really lives there. It’s a way to find out who really rents our houses in their area,” NCRPO director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde told Rappler in a recent interview.

Albayalde explained that drug pushers and users usually rent houses for their illicit operations.

The NCR chief said police coordinated with security officials of each barangay, along with homeowners associations to get their consent for “Oplan Tukhang.”

Alabayalde clarified that getting a visit from cops doesn’t automatically mean that you’re a suspected drug personality. “Part of the door-to-door visit is the dissemination of the ill-effects of drugs,” he added.

Asked why it took more than a month before police extended “Tukhang” to villages, Albayalde explained that illegal drugs are more rampant in the “street level.” “At the barangay level, the street level… that’s where people typically buy illegal drugs. Not in the bigger subdivisions. So that’s why the barangays were operated on first,” he said.

“There are some barangays wherein you just walk around and you’ll get illegal drugs. They’re as easy to buy as cigarettes,” he added.

Police are not allowed to enter one’s home without a search warrant or without an invitation from the homeowner. They can also rebuff a police officer the moment he or she knocks on their doors.

“We want to get their cooperation because we are at war with drugs. For this to succeed we need the cooperation of the entire citizenry,” said Albayalde.

He also defended the PNP amid reports that police were taking photos of houses inside villages. “Maybe it’s just for documentation. None of those documents will leak outside our office. That’s treated with confidentiality,” he added.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa had earlier announced plans to talk to owners of high-end bars and clubs in the cities Makati and Taguig City because party drugs were “rampant” in those areas.

Dela Rosa, Albayalde, and the chief of the Southern Police District are set to meet with owners of bars on August 24 “to give the policies of the PNP on illegal drugs issues concerning bars and clubs.” –