MANILA (UPDATED) - After a month-long hiatus, the Philippine National Police on Monday retook leadership of President Duterte's anti-drug war with a promise that the campaign will see less bloodbath with the help of religious leaders and a new police unit.
Oplan Tokhang operations, where cops visit the homes of drug abusers and urge them to seek rehabilitation, will now be conducted only by town police chiefs, station commanders and precinct heads, according to PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa.
Territorial unit commanders, he said, will be required to secure the coordination of barangay officials and local Church leaders before carrying out any Tokhang effort.
"We aim that this Tokhang Revisited will be a less bloody, if not bloodless, campaign. Kaya ini-involve natin ang Church," Dela Rosa said during a press conference at Camp Crame.
"Ang requirement doon na 'pag mag-Tokhang kayo, may representative ng Church na sasama sa inyo para maganda ang dating. That way, maiwasan natin ang mga akusasyon na ang Tokhang ay ginagamit sa mga unsolved murders, makita ng ating Church na totohanan po ito -- this is aimed at saving the users and jailing the pushers."
(We aim that this Tokhang Revisited will be a less bloody, if not bloodless, campaign. That's why we involved the Church. Cops who will conduct Tokhang should be accompanied by Church representatives. That way, we could avoid accusations that Tokhang is being used in unsolved murder and that our Church will see that the campaign is aimed at saving the users and jailing the pushers.)
Church leaders invited to join the drug fight will come from all religions, Dela Rosa said.
He added that although less personnel will be involved in anti-drug efforts, rogue cops are now less likely to abuse legitimate operations.
"Sinisiguro natin na hindi na sila makagawa ng ganoon dahil istrikto na ang policies natin about Tokhang. Bahala na kung mabagal ang ating takbo sa Tokhang basta sigurado," he said.
"Ayaw natin iyung diretsahan na kung sino-sino na lang, yung hindi na-supervise properly at nasingitan ng mga loko-lokong pulis."
(We guarantee that they can't abuse the drug war because we have tightened Tokhang policies. It does not matter if our Tokhang will be slow as long it remains legitimate. We don't want just anybody to participate in the operations without proper supervision.)
HUNTING DRUG BOSSES
Complementing Tokhang operations are revamped efforts to arrest high-level drug traffickers, which will be led by the newly organized PNP Drug Enforcement Group (DEG), Dela Rosa added.
DEG operatives, he said, passed a thorough vetting process to ensure that they have no record of violations.
Senior Supt. Graciano Jaylo Mijares, PNP Region III deputy director for administration, will head the new unit that will replace the disbanded Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG).
Dela Rosa said Mijares was chosen because his work at the PNP has been focused on anti-organized crime.
“Siya ay tubong Mindanao. Ang kanyang serbisyo ay nakatutok sa anti-organized crime, so beterano sa giyera sa mga kidnappers at drug lords sa Mindanao. Ilang beses na itong nabaril kaya hindi na ito takot mamatay,” Dela Rosa said.
(He is from Mindanao. His service is focused against anti-organized crime so he is already a veteran in wars against kidnappers and drug lords in Mindanao. He has also been shot several times so he is not afraid to die.)
The DEG however is not the sole group mandated by the PNP to handle the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
The PNP also has regional drug enforcement, provincial and municipal drug enforcement units placed all over the country.
Dela Rosa in January dissolved AIDG after some of its operatives were accused of using a drug raid to cover up the abduction and murder of a South Korean businessman.
The foreigner's death also prompted Duterte to pull out cops from the anti-narcotics trade and Dela Rosa to launch an "internal cleansing" of 160,000-strong police force.
The President only ordered the PNP to re-join the drug fray last week amid reports that drug dealers have grown emboldened and are now back on the streets.
Mijares said the public may report drug activities to DEG hotline numbers 0917-8950-544 and 0998-999-2286.
-- With reports from Henry Atuelan and Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News