A lawmaker is proposing a bill to strengthen the local government units' role in the government's anti-drug campaign, putting it on the front seat as the alternative to the police's "Oplan Tokhang" in a barangay-based health and rehabilitation approach.
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday said she is filing a bill that would address the demand side of the country's drug problem "through barangay-based health interventions for drug use" that would be led by a bureau under the Department of Health.
"The bill seeks to really empower our local government units to work with the Department of Health’s bureau, these eight Health Intervention for Drug Use Bureaus, on community-based programs to prevent people, especially youth, on community level from going into substance abuse, drug abuse, and assist those who will choose to go into rehab to do so," she said in an interview with ANC's "Headstart."
She said that after the patient's initial consultation, there should be counseling, socio-economic alternatives presented to them, as well as reintegration mechanisms.
She said the role of law enforcement agencies would not be absent in this approach, "as has been the experience of other countries doing such a health approach."
Hontiveros said her plea is to "never return again to Oplan Tokhang."
Oplan Tokhang (knock and plead) was popularized by National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa while in service as Davao police chief, wherein cops would knock at drug suspects' homes and ask them to give up their vice.
It was implemented on a national scale when President Rodrigo Duterte rise to power.
It was suspended after a South Korean businessman was abducted and killed allegedly by cops operating under the guise of the anti-drug campaign.
Hontiveros said that in the first 24 hours of the Oplan Tokhang's suspension, there had been "three or four" people killed, not zero as originally reported, and that was "1/11th of the average 33 killed a day."
"That stunning small set of statistics, confirmation iyan na (that's confirmation that) Tokhang was one, responsible for a good number of police anti-drug operations-related deaths," she said.
"And dahil pati vigilante killings ay na-reduce to zero or almost zero in the first 24 hours of suspension, [napatunayan din] na yung Tokhang ay naging cover din ng mga vigilante sa mga pagpapatay na ginawa nila, " she added, asserting that vigilante killings could possibly account for deaths under investigation.
The original intent of Oplan Tokhang, she said, is to plead to the drug suspects and keep them alive.
"Unfortunately Tokhang became or was revealed as because overly aggressive, it became abusive, it became even corrupted. Kailangan talaga hindi na ito kailanman balikan," she said.
(We should never return to it.)
"Government has to realize na hindi kaya ng gobyerno na patayan ang solusyon sa illegal drugs natin. Government cannot kill its way out of the drug problem," she added.
Citing the Dangerous Drugs Board, Hontiveros said of the million or so confessed drug dependents, only 9 percent really need in-patient confinement.
"91 percent would benefit most from and hopefully welcome and approach to access community-based and outpatient programs," she said.
"That's precisely the kind of programs na gustong i-empower ng bill ko," she said.