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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Amnesty International (AI) is perceived by military/police as historically biased against them, but few would deny that AI’s report on “Oplan Tokhang” abuses has severely damaged PH---as 'Tokhang' is portrayed not as CRUSADE VS. DRUGS BUT TRANSACTIONAL, for the FUND of it. With Digong lifting ceasefire with Left, AFP can't share burden of anti-narcotics campaign with PNP. No scalawags please.

The campaign against illegal drugs that should be confined to 'Katok Pakiusap'  (Tagalog translation for Cebuano term 'Toktok hangyo' )  but which isn't followed by anti-drug units, as Amnesty International asserts in a searing report-indictment of President Duterte's war against illegal drugs. 


If you talk to military and police people, they’re liable to tell you that Amnesty International (AI)---the London-based human rights group that came out with a searing indictment of President Duterte’s seven-month war against illegal drugs---has had a long history of being anti-Philippine military/police--in other words, more left-leaning. 

Such assertion may be true, and yet it cannot be denied that a lot of its claims about abuses in the Duterte administration’s anti-narcotics campaign are very believable.  No incident has opened this realization more forcefully in recent memory than the brutal kidnap-for-ransom/murder of Korean executive Jee Ick Joo, where his widow paid P5million and still he was murdered inside the PNP camp itself---not far from PNP Chief Bato de la Rosa’s HQ and official residence.

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The term “tokhang” came from the Cebuano term “toktok hangyo” which means knocking first before entering. Taking off from this monicker, the PNP drive against illegal drugs was supposed to be preceded by prior intelligence and verification of those involved, and subject to the police’s positive finding, arrest would be made.  In other words, surveillance before arrest.

“Oplan Toktok Hangyo,” however, ultimately was short-cut to “Oplan Tokhang” and that’s when the problem began. Its implementation soon became much-abused, with allegations of victims’ families, mainly from the ranks of the poor, that despite their coming across with funds, albeit far less than those demanded by PNP operatives, their kin were still summarily killed.

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A retired military intelligence officer I know recently told me that the killings may have been abetted by the usual competition for results among operational units, with the usual “kanchawan” among them and the race to score the most hits. As this retired military opined, "nandiyan na ang binubugbog ni boss ang mga tauhan niya na magpakita ng gilas."

Thus, by the time AI’s report was published in the world press about alleged summary executions in PH that are being rewarded by the police organization--- allegedly P5,000 per drug user and P10,000 per drug pusher slain--- the bloody campaign had already claimed more than 7,100 victims. The AI report terms it PH’s “informal economy of death.”

The AI report may have damaged the Philippines’ reputation in this regard, perhaps irreparably, in the eyes of the world, so that the Duterte administration is now in consternation as to how to handle its fall-out, abate the killings that have escalated and solve the drug problem.

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To be sure, President Duterte meant well in waging his brutal war against drugs, especially because the unlamented Noynoy Aquino administration had not done anything to curb its rise.  And as Mr. Duterte likes to boast, and rightfully, had he not arrived and tackled the bull by the horns, this country would have become a narco-state.

The problem, however, is that once funding of the campaign against drugs became synonymous in terms of body count---so that the profit angle seems to have blinded the eyes of some people in the police force---the payola appears to have become the prime motivation for their actions---instead of the common good and protecting the populace. INSTEAD OF A CRUSADE VS. THE EVIL OF DRUGS, AI PORTRAYS THE PNP DRIVE AS MAINLY TRANSACTIONAL---ADDICTS' BODIES FOR THE FUND OF IT. 

AI’s accusation that the PNP has used MONEY to motivate its people to kill those involved in drugs gained credence from testimonies of relatives of those slain.   

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Now the anti-illegal drugs campaign has spun out of control, wracked by controversies among various sectors in the country and blistering criticism from foreign shores. What’s good, however, is that at least the Duterte administration has taken cognizance of the criticisms (having read the AI report in advance), and last week---even before the AI report came out publicly--- IT HAD  OFFICIALLY HALTED ALL ANTI-DRUG OPERATIONS, PENDING THE WEEDING OUT OF SCALAWAGS IN THE PNP'S RANKS. Recognizing that the PNP as an organization “is rotten to the core” Mr. Duterte wants to institute reforms.

His move is commendable, for even prior to the AI report hit our shores, the President apparently came to realize that if his anti-drug campaign is to become CREDIBLE, it has to be carried out by personnel who are credible and known for their integrity---not KFR mercenaries and criminal elements.  PROBLEM IS, HOW MANY SUCH PNP PERSONNEL ARE THERE? 

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Two recent moves of Mr. Duterte, however, may not be the solution to the drug problem; on the contrary, these moves would expand and complicate it. He wants to call in the Armed Forces to arrest erring policemen, but this could only result in clashes between the two vital organizations. Besides, the AFP is already burdened with its peace-keeping role in the South. Moreover, THE PRESIDENT LIFTED TONIGHT THE CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT WITH THE LEFT---after a series of attacks by the NPA in the countryside.

As Mr. Duterte noted on TV, the breakdown of the peace talks between the government and the Left arose from the demand of the Left for the release of over 400 political prisoners---which he termed "UNACCEPTABLE.“ Obviously this development would call for more vigilance from the AFP, and thus it could not be actively involved in the anti-narcotics campaign.

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Mr. Duterte’s other idea for handling the drug problem is to call the old Philippine Constabulary to be the lead agency of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). But the PC has been defunct for some time now, replaced by the PNP. Thus, as one columnist pointed out, there could be constitutional infirmities, because recalling the old PC to active duty would result in virtually two police forces.  Besides, even the old PC did not have such a great reputation---no anti-crime organization ever has, as this task constantly opens it to bribery.

The PDEA is the right agency to tackle the anti-illegal drug campaign, but it should be given enough personnel deputized from the PNP and properly screened, as well as a suitable budget to handle the campaign. Combating illegal drugs, however, cannot be the problem of the PDEA alone; rather, civic organizations, the churches, schools and other institutions have to be involved, especially in the rehabilitation of drug-addicts, if only to show the criminally-inclined elements that indeed, WE BELIEVE THAT THERE IS LIFE AFTER DRUG INVOLVEMENT, THAT THESE ADDICTS SHOULD NOT BE KILLED BUT REHABILITATED.  

Civic organizations can help put up and support drug rehab centers as well as livelihood training for those being weaned away from this disastrous preoccupation, while the various churches have to go into renewed spiritual formation of its followers and help put up rehab centers too, as some parishes have begun doing.  LGUs  have to go as well into alternative activities for today's listless, directionless youths---sports, cultural endeavors, informal schooling and skills training, etc.---to prevent idle minds from being the workshops of drug syndicates.

Combating illegal drugs is truly the fight of all Filipinos. 

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