No more 'Oplan Tokhang': Police suspends all anti-drug operations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 12) — The Philippine National Police (PNP) suspended its controversial anti-drug operations on Thursday.

"Implementation of Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang are suspended immediately," PNP Spokesperson Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said.

He added all drug enforcement units in police stations and regional offices were ordered dissolved by PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa.

Carlos said the PNP's Drug Enforcement Group, a national operational support unit with the mission and function to be the lead unit in police anti-drug operations, remains. It is still unclear what their role will be after the operations suspension.

Dela Rosa earlier said that without the task of ridding the country of illegal drugs, the PNP will now focus on internal cleansing and crack down on riding in tandem groups.

READ: PNP to focus on internal cleansing, other crimes after shift in anti-drug ops

The suspension of PNP's anti-drug operations comes two days after President Rodrigo Duterte signed a memorandum giving the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency the lead in all anti-illegal drug operations in the country.

READ: Duterte gives PDEA lead role in drug war

Meanwhile, a lawyer's group on Wednesday filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the police from implementing the administration's war on drugs.

Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chair Jose Manuel Diokno said the war on drugs authorizes the police to kill drug suspects in the guise "neutralizing" or "negating" them.

READ: Lawyer's group files SC petition vs drug war

Controversial drug war

Police waged an all-out war against illegal drugs upon Duterte's orders. In the "Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign Plan: Double Barrel," Project Tokhang and Project High-Value Target was launched when Duterte took office on July 1, 2016.

The second phase of the anti-illegal drugs campaign was launched in October 2016. "Project Double Barrel Alpha" focused on the arrest of high-value targets involved in illegal drug trade.

It was suspended in January amid controversy over rogue cops' involvement in the kidnap-slay of a South Korean businessman.

The police relaunched the "less bloody" anti-illegal drugs campaign on March 6.

As the administration's war on drugs entered its second year in June, they promised there will be no let up in the anti-drug campaign.

According to the PNP, the police conducted 76,863 anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to September 26, 2017. The operations resulted in the death of 3,906 drug personalities and the arrest of 113,932 others.

During the campaign period, Duterte promised to rid the country of illegal drugs in his first six months in office.

The drug war was criticized by the administration and opposition lawmakers, the United Nations, and local and international human rights groups for alleged extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by police officers.

The drug war was also said to have spawned apps for online games that  "are promoting murder, extrajudicial killings, violence, and the war on drugs in the Philippines." Advocacy groups have requested Apple Inc. to take them down.

READ: Over 100 organizations write to Apple: Take down Duterte apps