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Bato: PNP will be forced to ‘close shop’ if budget not approved

The Philippine National Police is asking for P900 million to fund their anti-illegal drug operation known as "Tokhang 2". Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, file

MANILA, Philippines –  Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa warned that their operations might be paralyzed if their proposed budget for next year will not be approved by Congress.

The PNP, a bureau under the Department of the Interior and Local Government, is asking for P20-billion increase in its budget to P131.5 billion from P111.8 billion. Of that amount, P900 million will be allotted for the implementation of “Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded”, or the second version of “Oplan Tokhang.”

With the recent killings, including the death of 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos at the hands of Caloocan City police, some lawmakers are questioning the massive budget increase of “Tokhang 2”, which is a 4,400-percent jump from the P20 million fund for this year.

Investigations have also been launched into the death of 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, who was killed by Caloocan City police in what they claim was a shootout. Police said Arnaiz, whom the Public Attorney's Office says may have been tortured before being killed, had robbed a taxi driver and police fired at him when he violently resisted arrest.

READ: PNP wants P900 M for ‘Tokhang 2’ | Recto: Congress must not give PNP 'blank check' for drug war

Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, member of the House Committee on Appropriations, fears that with the budget proposal for PNP’s anti-illegal drug program alone, the number of deaths might reach 540,000.

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The government, according to the August 29 "RealNumbersPH" data release, said that 3,811 drug suspects have been killed in police operations since July 1, 2016.

The latest data release did not include information on Deaths Under Investigation, or homicides that police have yet to determine the motive for.

According to a June 30 release, with data updated until June 19, there were 8,200 under investigation out of 12,833 homicides recorded since July 1, 2016. The Presidential Communications Operations Office said 2,098 were drug-related.

Human rights advocates and government critics have varying estimates from a low of 7,000 to a high of 12,000 deaths.

READ: Duterte challenges claim there are 10K drug war victims 

Dela Rosa said he understands being subjected to questions as it is the job of lawmakers to dissect where the people’s taxes will go, but assured them that the money will be used to fund the PNP's day-to-day operations.

“Kung mamalasin na hindi approved, then sorry, ano magawa namin. Alangan naman magpupumilit kami, hindi naman namin hinihingi ‘yan para sa bulsa namin. Hinihingi namin ‘yan para sa trabaho ng PNP in order to fulfill our mandate that is to serve and protect,” he said in a weekly press briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

The nation’s top cop said they will be forced to “close shop” if their budget will not be approved.

READ: Proposed drug war budget hike alarms solon, rights group

“Ano ba gagawin namin? Ano pambili namin ng gasolina para tatakbo yung patrol cars namin. Anong gagastusin namin dito sa pambayad ng kuryente dito sa aming opisina kung wala kaming pambayad, ganun lang talaga ang buhay,” he added.

The lawmakers were questioning the funding for "Tokhang 2" and not the entire proposed budget of the PNP.

Passing the budget bill is one of the most important tasks of Congress, which has the power of the purse. The proposed PNP budget is just one part of that bill.

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