MANILA (2ND UPDATE) - The Philippine National Police will relaunch its house-to-house anti-drug operation Oplan Tokhang this January, Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Friday.
In an ambush interview, Dela Rosa said he gave the "go" signal to police commanders on Monday for the revival of the program, which earlier drew controversy over unexplained killings.
The PNP chief assured the public that the "true spirit" of Oplan Tokhang, which is to "knock and plead" for drug suspects to surrender, will be observed in its relaunch.
The revival comes as police returned to the frontline of the administration's war on drugs.
The police force last year relinquished the lead role in the anti-drug campaign to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The directive came just as the PNP faced criticism over alleged abuses and suspicious killings in the drug war, including controversial teen deaths. It has repeatedly denied it was behind summary killings.
Last month, Duterte signed a memorandum allowing the PNP to return to the drug war.
But under the 2018 budget, there was no allocation for "Tokhang," with funds going instead to housing projects for police and military officers and the acquisition of body cameras for use in police operations.
Asked whether the "Tokhang" campaign will be less bloody this time, Dela Rosa said: "Bloodless naman talaga ang concept ng Oplan Tokhang. Ang ibig sabihin niyan ay to knock and plead, hindi patayan."
He also warned policemen who will still be engaged in illegal activities and told them to think twice before getting into trouble or wrongdoings, especially with their pay increasing this month.
"Kahit hindi nag-increase ang sweldo, hindi dapat sila gumawa ng katiwalian. Mas lalo na ngayon na walang rason para gumawa ng katiwalian. Hindi lang mabigat na parusa ang kakaharapin nila, kundi mas mabilis na pag-dismiss," Dela Rosa said.
(Even if their salaries did not increase, they should not commit wrongdoings. Now, they have no reason to do wrongdoings because not only will they face grave punishment, but they will also easily be dismissed.)
CHANGES IN 'TOKHANG'
Some changes will be implemented in the conduct of police anti-drug operations, said PNP Director for Operations Gen. Camilo Cascolan.
Cascolan said police intelligence operatives this time will be more careful in identifying high-value targets to avoid cases of mistaken identity.
Policemen conducting anti-drug operations will also be required to wear a body camera and each police station will only have 8 personnel authorized to join anti-drug operations to ensure accountability.
The PNP is also coordinating with the Department of Justice so that an inquest prosecutor can easily be invited in the event that someone is killed in an anti-narcotics operation, Cascolan said.
Cascolan also noted that the PNP welcomes any complaint in the event that police officers commit abuses.
-with a report from April Rafales, ABS-CBN News