(NOVEMBER 8, 2019) – The vice president on Friday floated the idea of replacing the flagship anti-drug policy with a “more effective” campaign that does not involve “senseless” killings, during the first meeting of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) in Quezon City.
Vice President Leni Robredo, the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) co-chairperson, said Oplan Tokhang, where policemen knock and search from house to house for illegal drugs, has reached a certain “level of notoriety” where it is now being equated with unnecessary killings.
“It is incumbent upon us na mabago iyong kaisipan na iyon. Baka panahon na para pag-isipan natin iyong pagpalit ng isang kampanya na mas epektibo pero walang namamatay senselessly,” Robredo said during the first ICAD meeting at the Office of the Vice President in Quezon City.
Robredo and co-chair Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino met with the heads of other law enforcement agencies attached to the committee to brief her on the data and the progress in the drug war.
According to government data, the war on drugs has taken some 6,000 lives. Human rights groups estimate the deaths at 20,000, including those slain vigilante-style.
“[I]yong pagkakatok, iyong pagse-search, okay iyon. Pero because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, parang naka-reach siya ng certain level of notoriety na kapag sinabing Tokhang, it is a war against the poor,” Robredo said, two days after accepting the drug czar post from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Aquino said there is no need to completely do away with Oplan Tokhang, whose concept has been distorted by critics.
“Hindi naman kailangang alisin ang Oplan Tokhang… Kaya lang kasi binabaluktot ang ibig sabihin ng Oplan Tokhang ng PNP,” Aquino said in a press briefing after the meeting. “Siguro kailangan lang i-reassess ng PNP kung paano pa ayusin o pagagandahin ito.”
The vice president said anything can happen in police operations, but the planned gunning down of the innocent is another matter.
Robredo had said that one of her considerations in accepting the post was having the chance to save innocent lives.
“Naniniwala ako na sa lahat na police operations, anything can happen, pero iyong kinokontra natin iyong pinagpaplanuhan at pagpapatay ng mga walang kamuwang-muwang,” Robredo said.
The new ICAD co-chair also commended the attached agencies for their relentless effort in the anti-illegal drug campaig, but noting that such efforts are diminished by the “senseless killings.”
Robredo and Aquino’s working relationship was questioned after the PDEA chief’s remarks that the vice president’s “inexperience” in handling the drug menace would be her downfall as the drug czar.
Aside from Robredo and Aquino, others present in the meeting were Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Dangerous Drugs Board head Catalino Cuy, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez. (Randell Ritumalta/JMF)