After only a month of taking a backseat to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police is back in the war on illegal drugs. Re-launching the campaign yesterday, PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa vowed that “Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded” would be “less bloody if not bloodless” compared with the original drug war code-named “Tokhang.”
The vicious war had claimed the lives of about 7,000 drug suspects by the time it was suspended and both the PNP and National Bureau of Investigation were pulled out of the campaign. The suspension was prompted by the kidnapping and grisly murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo by members of the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, the principal police unit tasked to carry out Tokhang and Double Barrel, just outside the AIDG main office right inside PNP headquarters at Camp Crame.
Jee was suffocated to death with a plastic bag and packing tape, and his remains burned and flushed down a funeral parlor toilet. The nation is still waiting for PNP action on reports of other “Tokhang for ransom” cases reported by the Chinese-Filipino community.
The AIDG, now dissolved, executed Jee in October, as Tokhang entered its fourth month. This shows how quickly power can be abused for personal gain when law enforcers are given blanket authority to achieve certain ends by whatever means, without accountability.
President Duterte earlier lamented the rot in the PNP and said Tokhang could be revived only if fresh blood could be infused in the police service. Dela Rosa apparently believed this could take forever, and moved to revive Tokhang and Double Barrel even without new PNP members. He has reassured the public that safeguards are in place against abuses.
“Double Barrel Reloaded” will target mainly high-value drug suspects whose criminal activities have been “revalidated,” Dela Rosa vowed. This is a reaction to one of the main criticisms against Tokhang, that it targeted mainly impoverished penny-ante street pushers and addicts while letting off large-scale drug traffickers with the right connections or whose testimonies are needed against administration opponents. To guard against abuses, the PNP even wants priests to join police anti-drug operations, Dela Rosa said.
After the abuses of Tokhang and the original Double Barrel, the PNP faces public skepticism and distrust as it re-launches its war on drugs. Fighting the drug menace is a worthy cause and must not be compromised by the rotten eggs in the police service. With Double Barrel Reloaded, the PNP should prove the skeptics wrong.