MANILA - Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa has ordered the termination of Oplan Tokhang Thursday as the police force, long at the forefront of the administration's fierce anti-narcotics campaign, turned the mission over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Dela Rosa said all of the PNP's anti-illegal drug operations are now halted, including Oplan Double Barrel and the drop box system of reporting drug suspects in barangays.
The PNP Drug Enforcement Group will remain, but its duties will be limited to intelligence production & monitoring to be sent over to the PDEA, Dela Rosa said.
The PNP relinquished the lead role in the anti-drug campaign to PDEA on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, who released a memorandum on Wednesday clarifying the anti-drug agency's mandate “to bring order” to the campaign and “[pinpoint] precise accountability."
The directive came just as the PNP faced criticism over alleged abuses and suspicious killings in the drug war, including recent teen deaths. It has repeatedly denied it was behind summary killings.
It also came on the heels of Dela Rosa's "ingrato" remark, where he called critics of the campaign ungrateful for what he claimed was an improved peace and order situation as a result of intensified anti-drug operations.
Dela Rosa drew flak for the comment, including criticism from Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.
Now taking a step back from the anti-narcotics campaign, Dela Rosa said the PNP would focus on fighting crime, particularly going after riding-in-tandem gunmen, and also cleansing its ranks.
Dela Rosa said the police would be ready to support the PDEA in its campaign against illegal drugs, if necessary.
Since the enforcement of Oplan Tokhang last year, at least 3,800 people were killed in police anti-drug operations per PNP figures, allegedly for putting up violent resistance.
Human rights groups have meanwhile said the death toll could be as high as 13,000, but the government has dismissed this figure as overblown.
Several police officers have been tagged in abuses under the drug war, including those tagged in the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo nearly a year ago.
Jee was seized from his home in Angeles City on Oct. 18 and killed right inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
-- with reports from Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News