Tokhang in Binondo: PNP verifies 11 cases
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is checking the veracity of reports that 11 kidnapping cases involving policemen were carried out in the guise of “tokhang.”
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Tokhang in Binondo: PNP verifies 11 cases

Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2017 - 12:22am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Police (PNP) is checking the veracity of reports that 11 kidnapping cases involving policemen were carried out in the guise of “tokhang.”

“We have to look into all these 11 cases,” said PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos, as he appealed to the media not to use the term “tokhang for ransom” in describing the cases. The Visayan term roughly means “knock and plead.”

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa earlier made the same appeal, saying calling the cases as such would put the overall anti-drug campaign Oplan Tokhang in a bad light.

On Thursday, Teresita Ang-See of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) said rogue law enforcers demanded huge sums of money from Chinese nationals in exchange for not being served arrest warrants for trumped up drug charges.

“Unfortunately, all of the victims paid up. Behind these are groups involving rogue Manila policemen. Others claimed agents of the National Bureau of Investigation were involved, but we do not know if they are really NBI agents,” See said.

“Tokhang” is a term coined by the Duterte administration to refer to police visits to houses of drug offenders to convince them to give up drugs or surrender.

“This is an effort to ask these people to change and over six million houses have been knocked on by our police. This is no joke,” Carlos said.

Police have visited a total of 6,527,830 houses of suspected drug offenders since July, resulting in the surrender of more than a million pushers and users.

Carlos appealed to families of kidnap-for-ransom victims to immediately report to authorities cases of kidnapping instead of negotiating with the kidnappers.

“We have the Anti-Kidnapping Group which was created to address these types of incidents,” he said.

Without the assistance of the police, Carlos said relatives of victims would be helpless in the face of more ransom demands.

“If there is a police officer assisting in the case, we can do monitoring and identification of the possible suspects,” he said.

Ang-See said relatives of some of the victims paid up and refused to cooperate with authorities, for fear the policemen were themselves involved in the kidnapping.

Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said the cases reported by Ang-See were old ones and had already been acted upon.

“Actually, those cases happened last year. It’s not ‘tokhang for ransom’ but plain extortion committed by three policemen,” said Albayalde.

He said three policemen had been relieved from their post and charges against them filed by Chief Supt. Jigs Coronel, director of the Manila Police District (MPD).

The NCRPO chief said they coordinated fully with Ang-See last year but she did not mention any other “extortion” cases involving Chinese nationals, except the one that happened in Binondo area.

After punishing the three policemen, they asked MRPO officials if they wanted the head of Supt. Amente Daro, Station 11 commander of the MPD in Binondo, but they wanted him retained, said Albayalde.

“We asked them (MRPO) what they wanted, including the relief of Daro, but they told me that they wanted him to stay,” said Albayalde in an interview.

But after being informed of the revelation of Ang-See yesterday, Albayalde directed Coronel to send an emissary to the MRPO to make some verifications.

Albayalde claimed some plain criminals – disguised as law enforcers – had taken advantage of police anti-drug operations to extort money.

“We are appealing to the public to report to us any extortion racket perpetuated by unscrupulous persons identifying themselves as policemen or NBI agents as we would act on them accordingly. We assure you that your identities would be kept secret,” said Albayalde. 

In Malacañang, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo belittled reports on the breakdown in peace and order in the country in the light of Jee’s murder and reports of police involvement in kidnap/extortion activities involving Chinese.

“In a 100-percent scenario, that’s only a less than one percent,” he said.

Asked if the reports had severely affected the credibility of the President’s campaign against illegal drugs, Panelo said, “Not really, it has been successful so far.”

“So any impairment of that by reason of this incident will not affect the success of the project,” he said.

Panelo’s statement came after New York-based Human Rights Watch deputy director Phelim Kine described, in a dispatch, that Jee’s killing by police operatives was “an ominous indicator of the breakdown of rule of law under President Duterte.”

Kine described Jee’s killing as “notably grotesque” in line with existing killings from the campaign against drugs, which is the centerpiece of the Duterte administration.

In relation to the kidnap-slay of the Korean trader, Panelo argued that there could only be “very limited number of policemen” involved in illegal activities.

“Still in relation to percentage, that’s very small. There are, of course, those using the drug operation for their own advantage. They will eventually fail,” he added.

He stressed that Duterte would never tolerate police abuse of power.

“The probability of people using a particular project of the government is there, hindi mo rin maiwasan yun (you can’t avoid it). You cannot read the minds of these people,” he said. “What is important is, they know that the President is very serious on the operations and will not tolerate abuse, that is more important,” Panelo pointed out. – Christina Mendez, Non Alquitran

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