Police resume anti-illegal drug operations under new guidelines, emphasizes human rights

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 28) — The Philippine National Police (PNP) resumes on Monday its anti-illegal drug campaign that under the new guideline requires strict observation of  human rights.

"Rule of law shall always prevail during the conduct of all anti-illegal drugs operations," the new operational guidelines read, "Respect for human rights shall always be strictly observed at all times."

Police operations will now require the presence of a human rights officer or advocate.

President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war has been criticized by the opposition lawmakers, the United Nations, as well as local and international human rights groups for alleged extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by police officers.

The police's previous anti-illegal drugs initiative was called Oplan Tokhang, which comes from the Cebuano words "Toktok" and "Hangyo" meaning "knock" and "plead."

Official records show that less than 4,000 drug suspects were killed in legitimate police operations: 34 by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents and 3,933 by the police.

These allegedly included the killing of teenagers Kian Delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, and Reynaldo de Guzman.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier ordered the PDEA to take over the drug war, but eventually allowed the police to once again conduct operations.

The new guidelines released on January 19, which form part of the PNP's efforts to enforce a bloodless drug war, ban operations on nighttime and weekends.

The guidelines also  include provisions on the accountability and command responsibility of the team leaders, supervisors, and unit commanders.

A "one strike policy" will also be implemented, which means the chief of police, provincial director, or the regional director will be relieved when their subordinates fail to adhere to the guidelines or are charged with involvement in illegal drugs.

The guidelines also encourage police to use body cameras during operations when available, and enjoin them  to possess a tickler containing the unit and individual's functions and daily evaluation.

Families of drug war victims, however, called on the government to stop Oplan Tokhang altogether, and implement a bloodless, peaceful drug campaign instead.

Police to focus on high value targets

The new guidelines also cover provisions on prioritizing High Value Targets (HVTs) nationwide.

"PNP Drug Enforcement Group (PNP-DEG) shall conduct anti-illegal drug operations focusing on national and international HVTs, and across regional borders," the guidelines read.

The regional units, including the National Capital Region, and other provincial units must also concentrate on HVTs.

The drug enforcement units under district and city police offices will conduct operations against street-level drug personalities.

CNN Philippines' Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.