Palace open to scrapping ‘Oplan Tokhang’

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Palace open to scrapping ‘Oplan Tokhang’

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) – November 11, 2019 – 4:38pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang will not have any objection if Vice President Leni Robredo proposes to scrap “Oplan Tokhang”, where police officers knock on the doors of suspected “drug personalities.”

The campaign is a nationwide implementation of an approach used in Davao City, where President Rodrigo Duterte was mayor for decades.

Robredo said the government should consider a new anti-illegal drug strategy as the operation has gained a notoriety of being a “war against the poor.”

Although “Tokhang” — from the Bisaya words for “knock and plead” — refers to the campaign of asking suspected drug peddlers and users to surrender and enter rehabilitation programs, it has also been used to refer to killings linked to the “war on drugs.”

The government has repeatedly said extrajudicial killings are not state policy.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently designated Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). 

“As we have said, we will give her all that she needs. She should be given a wide latitude and she should pursue her own scheme of things in pursuing the drug war initiated by this administration,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing Monday.

Panelo stressed that Robredo, as the “anti-drug czar,” has the authority to replace OplanTokhang.

Duterte is also open to consultation if ever Robredo wants to discuss the government’s anti-narcotics campaign.

“I think everything will be threshed out the moment the two talk,” Panelo said, referring to Duterte and Robredo.

Asked if the government would be willing to give more funds for the drug war, Panelo said Malacañang will approve it as long as the vice president needs it.

Malacañang is also open to consulting United States and United Nations officials to discuss the campaign against illegal drugs.

Both the US and the UN have been vocal on its stand against extrajudicial killings linked in the conduct of the drug war.

“If she feels that the US can help in the drug war… The Americans have long been helping us. Sharing intelligence is one of that,” Panelo said.

Robredo said she will meet with US Embassy officials this week to coordinate the flow of cooperation and information. She also thanked US Ambassador Sung Kim for Washington’s commitment to partner with the country in the efforts against illegal drugs.

The vice president also noted that the UN has researches and studies about best practices on addressing the drug problem.