At 'Tokhang' relaunch, PNP bars operatives from engaging 'hostile' suspects

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2018 07:28 PM

Police officers take shelter as it rains during a raid on a drug den in Manila on Oct. 5, 2016, where 95 drug suspects were arrested and two drug suspects were killed. Noel Celis, Agence France-Presse


MANILA - Anti-drug operatives who would knock on doors of supposed drug users may not engage even hostile suspects, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said in revamped guidelines for the relaunch of "Oplan Tokhang." 

Under fresh guidelines, the PNP requires operatives, tagged as "Tokhangers," to abide by a 3-stage procedure to ensure transparency and prevent suspicion of abuse in the campaign. 

The PNP has also limited the conduct of Tokhang only during daytime on weekdays, deviating from usual nighttime operations that had drawn suspicion of abuses. 

The force is set to revive its house-to-house "knock and plead" campaign on Monday following months of keeping anti-drug operatives off the streets amid allegations of excesses and summary killings. 

Officials have denied state involvement in alleged extrajudicial slays, saying those killed in anti-drug operations had put up violent resistance. 

On Tuesday, the PNP said the number of suspects killed in drug operations from July 1, 2016 to January 17, 2018 reached nearly 4,000. 


'PRE-TOKHANG': VERIFY LIST, PREPARE TEAM

Under the "pre-Tokhang" phase, police intelligence must first validate all information provided on the list of houses to be visited.

Once the list has been verified, the chief of police will have to coordinate the operational plan with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and local government units. 

Each Tokhang team shall have at least 4 members, all chosen by the chief of police based on track record. The deputy chief of police shall lead the team, while at least one barangay official or a representative from a human rights group or the religious sector must be present in the operation. 

The "Tokhangers" are required to undergo a one-day orientation course. The team leader must also provide a pre-deployment briefing for every operation.


'DURING TOKHANG': NEVER ENGAGE HOSTILE SUSPECTS

Operatives will knock only on doors of individuals on the validated list. "Tokhangers" are prohibited from entering homes of suspects without the owners' permission.

Suspects should not be forced to sign any document, the new PNP guidelines read.

If the subject voluntarily surrenders, he or she will be advised to go to the nearest barangay hall or police station along with a relative, for processing and documentation. 

If the subject who voluntarily surrenders is a minor, he or she should be accompanied by his or her parent or legal guardian to the nearest local social welfare and development facility. 

Those who want to undergo rehabilitation will be referred to a concerned agency, or to PNP Recovery and Wellness personnel.

The PNP was explicit in barring operatives from engaging suspects who refuse to surrender. 

"If the subject personality refused to surrender or is hostile, do not engage him/her, instead endorse to the DEUs (drug enforcement units) for the conduct of police operation (case build-up and negotiation)," the PNP guidelines read. 

The PNP encouraged operatives to use body cameras. PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, however, earlier said the agency has yet to make this mandatory as these are still being procured.


'POST TOKHANG': FILE REPORT

"Tokhangers" are required to submit an after-activity report and conduct activity assessment and evaluation. These documents must be submitted to the Regional Oversight Committee on Illegal Drugs.

They are also required to monitor changes in the behavior of those who surrendered.

With a one-strike policy in place, precinct commanders will be relieved if a Tokhang team member under his jurisdiction fails to properly conduct Tokhang activities. 

The chief of police will also be relieved if two or more precinct commanders under his jurisdiction will violate the guidelines.

Provincial directors will also be removed from their posts should they have at least two erring subordinates.

The regional director will be replaced if two or more of the provincial directors under his wing are relieved due to Tokhang-related issues.

The PNP said the new guidelines will be fully implemented on January 29, the day of the "Tokhang" relaunch. 

Stricter guidelines for anti-drug operatives were released months after President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the force to rejoin the government's anti-drug efforts.

Duterte had put the PNP in the backseat of his anti-drug campaign amid reported police abuses, directing the PDEA to take the lead back in October. 

-- with reports from Maan Macapagal and Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News