February 26, 2018, 3:31 am
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‘Time to stop Tokhang, change tack vs drugs’

AN opposition congressman yesterday urged President Duterte to rethink his bloody war on drugs and stop the PNP’s “Oplan Tokhang” now that he has admitted it would be impossible for any president to defeat the illegal drugs trade in one term.

“If he (Duterte) truly cares for the people, especially the ordinary Filipinos who are victims of poverty and drugs, President Duterte should revisit his deadly war on drugs,” said Rep. Gary Alejano (PL, Magdalo).

Duterte, whose campaign promise was to stop illegal drugs trade in three to six months, last Wednesday said the drug problem could not be solved by a president in one term. He said even powerful countries like the United States are besieged with the illegal drugs problem. He reiterated this Friday at an event of medical practitioners in Davao City.

Government data on Duterte’s war against drugs show some 3,450 suspected drug users and pushers have been killed in police operations since July last year. Critics of Operation Tokhang say at least 9,000 have died.

PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa suspended Tokhang in late January and dissolved the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group following the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo by rogue policemen right inside Camp Crame, and Duterte’s declaration that the police force was “corrupt to the core.” Dela Rosa said then the PNP would focus on ridding the organization of “scalawags” while Tokhang is suspended. He resurrected Tokhang in March after the creation of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, asked for comment on Alejano’s call, said: “The good congressman can help address the drug problem by introducing reforms through legislative measures. The PNP will continue to do its part in addressing the drug situation by reaching out to drug users/pushers to change thru Oplan Tokhang, and stop violations of the drug law by conducting police anti-drug operations.”

Alejano said Duterte’s statement was a “welcome development” because the President now acknowledges the fact that he cannot solve the drug problem even during his six-year term.

“Further, it is a good sign that he mentioned that even a first world country like the US struggled to curb illicit drugs for several decades now. Even Davao City still has a drug problem after two decades under Duterte’s iron hand,” he said.

He asked the administration to look into other ways of approaching the drug problem, particularly by strengthening the criminal justice system.

“Let us attack the problem head on and not the victims of this failure in the system! I will support the President in pursuing radical reforms in our criminal justice system. Let’s fortify our democratic processes and institutions,” said Alejano.

He urged the President and Congress leaders to prioritize legislative initiatives such as modernizing and professionalizing law enforcement agencies, particularly the PNP; to reform the prosecutorial service by increasing the number of prosecutors and their pay; to de-clog courts by increasing its numbers and hold to account corrupt and inefficient judges; overhaul correctional services to provide an environment of reform instead of making offenders more hardened criminals inside correctional facilities; and bringing back the people’s faith to the government, especially in the justice system.

“We cannot solve the problem by talking tough and making threats but through concrete measures that have longtime benefits to the democratic system and the citizens. The President should look at these as legislative priorities rather than regressive and divisive policies,” he said.

Duterte, during the campaign period for the May 2016 elections, promised to solve the drug problem within three months. After he assumed the presidency in June last year, he extended this to six months. Last January, he said the war against drugs would go on until the end of his term in 2022 and may even go beyond, reiterating he did not realize the gravity of the problem until he assumed the presidency.

He also said the police force, which is at the frontline of his war against drugs, is “corrupt to the core.” – With Raymond Africa
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