No more 'Oplan Tokhang': Police suspends all anti-drug operations

No more 'Oplan Tokhang': Police suspends all anti-drug operations

President Rodrigo Duterte names PDEA as the "sole agency" in charge of his bloody war on drugs.

The recent designation of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the lead implementing office of the war against drugs was not enough as two opposition senators urged the government to radically overhaul its approach to tackling the Philippines' narcotics problem.

Dela Rosa said he's frustrated that the PNP can't sustain the gains it has achieved in the fight against illegal drugs but stressed he doesn't harbor ill feelings toward Duterte.

"Provided, further, That the NBI, PNP and the Bureau of Customs shall maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug related matters".

In a memorandum he signed October 10 (Tuesday) but made public Wednesday, Duterte ordered all concerned government agencies, including the PNP to immediately transfer all case files on the drug campaign to PDEA.

Chief said on Thursday that he has ordered the police to stay out of the anti-drug campaign after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's directive.

Last January, Duterte detached the PNP from the war on drugs following the death of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo allegedly in the hands of the policemen, inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

On February 27, the President allowed the PNP a limited participation in the anti-drug campaign through smaller task forces.

"Implementation of Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang are suspended immediately", PNP Spokesperson Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said.

Police say armed suspects resisted arrest in every one of those cases and deny allegations victims were executed.

While Duterte's war on drugs had substantial public support, it came under fire from local and global human rights groups, who denounced the killing of more than 7,000 suspects, mostly poor drug users and pushers.

"The street distribution networks of drug lords has already degraded, so we now target higher echelons of the syndicates as well as their protectors in government", Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

"It's not a question of failure; it's a question of more effectivity, optimizing the efforts, and they are widening the scope of responsibility", Abella said in a press conference.

Dela Rosa, however, said the PNP Drug Enforcement Group will still function as the PNP's anti-illegal drugs arm but only to gather intelligence information regarding illegal drugs.

Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chair Jose Manuel Diokno said the war on drugs authorizes the police to kill drug suspects in the guise "neutralizing" or "negating" them.

As PDEA agents vowed to adhere to the rule of law, they stressed that they would not chicken out from using force to defend themselves when conducting illegal drug operations. "Just because there is a changing of the guard in the government's anti-drug campaign doesn't mean that we've also had a change of heart in our pursuit of truth, justice and accountability".

During a hearing on the DILG budget for 2018, Hontiveros asked department officials how they could ensure that innocent names would not be put in the PNP drop boxes.

She also warned that abuses would not go away with the PDEA leading the campaign.