PNP relaunches 'less bloody' Oplan Tokhang

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Duterte administration's controversial war against illegal drugs is back, and police assure it will be "less bloody."

Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa announced on Monday the return of the government's anti-drug campaign Oplan Tokhang, now relaunched as "Oplan Tokhang 2: Project Double Barrel Reloaded."

"Ang aim namin dito is bloodless campaign kung pupwede, but this is war, so siguro mangyari nito is less bloody," said Dela Rosa in a press briefing, flanked by police officers including Police Senior Superintendent Graciano Mijares, head of the PNP's Drug Enforcement Group, which will focus on nabbing high-value targets.

[Translation: We aim for a bloodless campaign, if possible. But this is war so I think it will be less bloody.]

"Basta walang lalaban, walang dadanak na dugo. [As long as they don't resist arrest, it will be bloodless] We are not here to claim lives, we are here to save lives," he said.

Read: PNP launches new anti-illegal drugs department

"Tokhang" is a composite of two Visayan words, "toktok," which means to knock, and "hangyo," or to plead. Teams led by police and local officials go from house to house in an area, knocking on doors of suspects and pleading with them to end their drug use or turn themselves in.

Church reps invited to join Tokhang operations

Dela Rosa emphasized the reforms in the conduct of Oplan Tokhang 2.

A new standard operating procedure (SOP) will be the inclusion of a representative of the church in the police's anti-drug operations in an area.

"Preferably [magiging SOP na may kasamang pari]. Hindi naman talaga mandatory na kapag walang pari na sasama na hindi na sila makapagtokhang," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: Preferably it is SOP to include a representative of the church... But it is not mandatory that if there is no priest who can accompany, (the team) cannot conduct 'Tokhang.']

"Coordinate with the local church para merong representative. A parish priest para lalabas na mas credible itong kampanya... Kung hindi available 'yung parish priest, puwede yung pastor ng protestante sumama or yung imam ng Muslim community ay sumama. Kahit sino, basta involved sa church," he added.

[Translation: Coordinate with the local church so there will be a representative. A parish priest to give this campaign more credibility. If a parish priest is not available, a pastor or imam can join. Anyone, as long as they are from the church.]

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Socrates Villegas said on Monday that they had yet to receive a written request or offer for the church to participate in Oplan Tokhang 2.

But CBCP public affairs executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano said he saw "no need for priests to join Oplan Tokhang."

"De la Rosa already claimed that there are enough safeguards to prevent abuses. Whatever strategy there is, for as long as there's no killing and it is devoid of any corrupt and unjust practice, the church supports," Secillano said.

Stricter screening measures for police

Dela Rosa also said that screening of police officers who will participate in Oplan Tokhang 2 will be more stringent to avoid the inclusion of rogue police officers.

"Problema natin noon sa 'Tokhang Part 1,' kung sinu-sino na lang ang nagcoconduct ng Tokhang. Ginagamit sa extortion. Strikto na ang policy natin sa Tokhang. Bahala na mabagal, basta sigurado," he said.

[Translation: Our problem with Tokhang Part 1 was the officers conducting Tokhang was not chosen carefully. It was used for extortion. The policy for the new Tokhang will be stricter.]

President Rodrigo Duterte suspended the PNP's seven-month drug war on January 30 following the alleged involvement of rogue police in the kidnapping and killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo under the guise of Oplan Tokhang.

However, Dela Rosa said the drug war was reimposed because the government saw the 20-percent increase in drug activities as an urgent matter that had to be resolved right away.

The PNP Chief added Duterte gave the resumption's go signal last week, but he asked for an extension to better prepare for it.

"Nakita ng presidente na tumaas na naman ang drug activities. Kailangan bumalik talaga kami," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: The President saw an increase in drug activities. So we need to return to the operations.]

During the first wave of the anti-drug campaign, 2,538 drug suspects were killed and 52,521 people were arrested during legitimate police operations. More than 4,000 deaths were recorded due to alleged vigilante-style killings.

Tokhang 2 complemented by stronger drug rehab programs

Dela Rosa noted that another major reform of the anti-drug operations is the rehabilitation of drug surenderees.

A big criticism of the earlier war against drugs was that there were not enough opportunities for rehabilitation.

Oplan Tokhang 2 includes a program known as "There Is Life After Tokhang," a community-based effort that will be offered to the drug dependents.

Drug users who need more intervention will be referred to the Department of Health's drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija.

"This is aimed at saving the users and jailing the pushers kung kinakailangan [if needed]," he said.

CNN Philippines correspondent Rex Remitio contributed to this report.