Police 'Tokhangers' can't arrest drug users - official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2018 10:57 AM | Updated as of Jul 26 2019 05:08 PM

A policeman documents a self-confessed drug user who voluntarily surrendered to the police on their "Operation Tokhang (approach and talk)" in Pasig, September 15, 2016. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA - Police operatives who will join the new "Oplan Tokhang" or 'knock and plead campaign' may not arrest suspected drug dependents but only urge them to seek medical help, an official said Sunday.

"Puwede naman pong mag-voluntary surrender o pumunta po sa istasyon para magpalista or mag-surrender, magpa-rehab voluntarily, pero hanggang doon lang po iyan," Director Oscar Albayalde, head of the Metro Manila police, told DZMM.

"Kung ayaw pong mag-surrender talaga ng drug dependent, wala po tayong magagawa... Hindi po puwedeng ikulong ang drug dependent," he added.

(Drug dependents may surrender voluntarily, go to the police station or seek rehabilitation, but that's it. If a drug dependent refuses to surrender, we cannot do anything. We cannot detain a drug dependent.)

Drug pushers, on the other hand, will be targeted in buy-bust operations outside the Tokhang campaign, said Albayale.

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Under the new guidelines, operatives tagged as "Tokhangers" will also be required to first validate all information provided on the list of houses to be visited, coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and local government units, and undergo a pre-deployment briefing for every operation.

Each Tokhang team shall have at least 4 members, all chosen by the chief of police based on track record.

They are barred from from entering homes of suspects without the owners' permission and from conducting operations outside office hours, the PNP had said.

Operatives are also encouraged 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.

Instead of arresting suspected drug users, "Tokhangers" may instead endorse hostile drug dependents to drug enforcement units for the conduct of case build-up and negotiation, according to new Philippine National Police guidelines.

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

The PNP is set to revive its Tokhang campaign on Monday following months of keeping 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.

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

Stricter guidelines for anti-drug operatives were released months after President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the police 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.