PDEA to carry-out 'Tokhang' against barangay captains who have yet to create antidrug council

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) — The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency will run after barangay captains who have yet to establish Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council, saying they will be subjected to 'tokhang' operations after the COVID-19 pandemic.

But PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva clarified that the 'tokhang' operations will follow the knock and plead technique and not the bloody drug operations that were carried out in Metro Manila.

"Dapat magkaroon ng Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council," Villanueva said. "If they don't have in their barangay, then si kapitan, totokhangin na natin."

[Translation: They have to have a Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council. If they don’t have it in their barangay, we will do clear out operations against the captains.]

"The problem is pagdating dito sa Maynila, ginawa niyong anti-drug operations ang tokhang e wala, nasira ang imahe ng barangay clearing program," Villanueva said.

[Translations: The problem is when it comes here in Manila, tokhang became an anti-drug operation. The image of the barangay clearing program was destroyed.]

PNP Chief General Camilo Cascolan said they are now reviewing their policies on anti-illegal drugs operations.

Cascolan said aside from focusing on high value targets, the PNP will come up with more rigid training for their drug enforcement units. This is to ensure that anti-drug operations uphold human rights and the rule of law.

"We are following the rule of law. But we will teach our people how to do it during operations, the rule of law,” the PNP Chief said.

“E siyempre sabi nga natin survival, survival once binunutan ka ng baril, siyempre babarilin ko na. Wala kang magagawa. But of course, we will always follow, and we will never tolerate the violation of human rights," he added.

[Translation: When we say survival, if a gun is pointed towards you, of course you will shoot. You can’t do anything. But of course, will always follow, and we will never tolerate the violation of human rights]

Based on the latest government data, 176,777 anti-drug operations were conducted from July 1, 2016 to August 31, 2020 where 256,788 drug suspects were arrested and 5,856 were killed.

Of the arrested, 10,308 are considered high value targets. Among them are:

-282 foreign nationals;

-352 elected officials;

-102 uniformed personnel;

-431 government employees;

-2,957 from the drug watchlist;

-746 drug group leaders and members; and

-16 celebrities

Pandemic slowed down drug clearing ops

Of the 42,045 barangays in the country, PDEA says 20,165 are already drug-free. 14,171 barangays have yet to be cleared, mostly in Luzon.

Villanueva admitted that the slowdown in their anti-illegal drugs operations was due to the pandemic.

"Para sa natitirang 33% ng drug affected barangays, doon na tayo pupunta sa intervention program. Medyo nagkakaproblema ang local government units dahil it's the local government units that are doing the intervention program. Nagkakaproblema nga sila dahil sa COVID pandemic," the PDEA chief said.

[Translation: The intervention program will go to the remaining 33% of drug affected barangays. The local government units will have a little difficulty because they are the ones doing the intervention program. They are also having a hard time because of the COVID pandemic.]

This is the reason both the PNP and PDEA agreed to bring back their operations in barangays by encouraging officials to have a proactive response in battling illegal drugs in their areas.

Ending illegal drugs is among President Duterte's flagship programs, promising during the election campaign to end the problem within three to six months of his term.

But he eventually took it back saying that it's not doable with the extent of drug infestation in the country.

"We only have 643 days to finish the campaign of War on Drugs of our President particularly on barangay clearing program. And we are committed, your PDEA is committed to do that,” Villanueva said.

“Kahit anong mangyari, ang importante ay ma-clear natin ang barangay at ang droga ay hindi na lalanding sa ating barangay," he added.

[Translation: Whatever happens, what’s important is that we clear out barangays from drugs.]

Narco politicians

PDEA said there are still a lot of politicians involved in drugs in the country but Villanueva did not disclose how many are in their watchlist.

The PDEA chief said based on their monitoring, the so-called narco politicians have suddenly stopped their operations but they are still being monitored.

In fact, Villanueva said they will work with their regional adjudication system which is composed of all intelligence agencies in the country to validate all the supposed narco politicians in their lists.

"Ngayon pa lang mag-adjudicate na sila ng lahat ng persons na nakalagay sa listahan para even before the elections, ma-validate na natin sila lahat at hindi na yan magiging issue next elections," Villanueva said.

[Translation: Starting now, they will adjuciate all the people in the list even before the elections to validate and for it not to become an issue next elections.]