PNP to require human rights officers, advocates in Tokhang ops

Rambo Talabong

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PNP to require human rights officers, advocates in Tokhang ops


'The Tokhang team shall be joined least one representative from PNP [Human Rights Affairs Office] or any Human Rights Advocate,' reads one of the new Oplan Tokhang provisions

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now requiring that a human rights officer or advocate join controversial Oplan Tokhang operations.

Under the PNP’s new Oplan Tokhang guidelines, teams of select people will conduct the knock-and-plead operations. The guidelines were signed by PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa last Tuesday, January 23.

“The Tokhang team shall be joined by at least one representative from any concerned ADAC (anti-drug abuse council), at least one representative from PNP HRAO (Human Rights Affairs Office) or any Human Rights Advocate,” reads one of the new provisions.

The PNP HRAO is the PNP department composed of cops tasked to ensure that the PNP upholds human rights through policies, information campaigns, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations.

The PNP memo did not specify who qualifies as a “human rights advocate,” but many who are associated with human rights groups, both in the Philippines and abroad, have been fierce critics of the PNP’s war on drugs. (READ: Drug war in 2017: The year of deaths and denials)

Oplan Tokhang has been criticized repeatedly for supposedly letting the police get away with going rogue then killing drug suspects they were just supposed to plead with.

In these fatal cases, police have said that they were only forced to kill, as drug suspects supposedly responded to their visits with violence.

Aside from human rights agents, the PNP also required that Tokhang teams have either a representative from the church/religious sector or a prominent member of the community. Media personnel “may be invited” to cover the operations. –

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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.