PNP chief: No bloodless drug war despite new rules

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 29) — After a three-month suspension, the anti-illegal drug war is back, but it will be less bloody.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa gave this assurance during a press briefing Monday, as the police resumed Oplan Tokhang, an intelligence-driven operation under the Duterte administration's campaign against drugs.

He, however, said he cannot guarantee a completely bloodless war.

"That's impossible. We are just giving you the assurance, lahat ay gagawin natin talaga para maging less bloody ang ating anti-drug campaign [We will do everything to have a less bloody anti-drug campaign]. Because we are not dealing with tao na nasa tamang pag-iisip [We are not dealing with people who are sane]," Dela Rosa said.

He added the police will not be aggressive should suspects refuse to face them, but there will be consequences.

"Pag hindi nagbukas, next house. 'Yung name niya, ipasa sa drug enforcement unit. Ito, matigas ito ayaw tayong kausapin. Mag-case buildup kayo rito," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: If they refuse to cooperate, we will move on to the next house. But we will give their names to the drug enforcement unit, and there will be a case buildup against them.]

He added if the suspects fight back, the police can use their guns to protect themselves.

"That's dependent naman sa reaction ng drug personalities. Alangan namang pabayaan namin sarili namin na mamatay kami kung armado at makipagbarilan 'yung drug personalities," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: That would depend on the reaction of drug personalities. We won't let allow ourselves to be harmed if the drug personalities will harm us.]

Dela Rosa, however, said the rule of law and human rights will be strictly observed under the new Oplan Tokhang.

As part of its efforts to make the drug war less bloody, the PNP has released new guidelines, which requires a barangay official and a representative from the religious sector or a prominent member of the community to accompany the operations.

The police are also limited to conducting their operations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays at houses of suspects whose names are on the watch list, which is validated by the directorate for intelligence.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) will closely monitor police operations to make sure they are following the rule of law and the guidelines.

"Inaasahan namin na magiging gabay ng PNP ang bagong guidelines habang sinusuportahan nila ang Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency sa kampanya laban sa iligal na droga," DILG said in a press statement Monday.

[Translation: We expect that the rules will guide the PNP while they support the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in the anti-drug campaign.]

The campaign earned a bad reputation due to alleged abuses and extrajudicial killings in areas where police conduct anti-drug operations.

Of the nearly 4,000 deaths in the drug war, the police claimed the suspects often fought back, but human rights advocates believe otherwise. Groups have pegged the number of deaths at 13,000 since the campaign began in July 2016.