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'Tokhang' against leftists in Cordillera could spur more abuses â Makabayan bloc
In this Feb. 3, 2018 file photo, police officers visit homes in Tondo, Manila to ask suspected drug users to undergo rehabilitation at the relaunch of Oplan Tokhang.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, file

'Tokhang' against leftists in Cordillera could spur more abuses — Makabayan bloc

(Philstar.com) - March 1, 2021 - 9:52pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives on Monday called for hearings into a plan by Cordillera Administtartive Region agency heads for a "Tokhang-style" campaign against "left-leaning personalities," warning it could lead to more human rights violations.

The Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee of CAR signed a resolution late last month for police-led teams to visit "left-leaning personalities" and convince them to stop being leftists.

"Tokhang," which means "knock and plead," began in 2016 as part of the "war on drugs" and saw police officers telling people on their drug watchlists to surrender and enter drug rehabilitation programs. It has since come to mean being killed, with more than 6,000 "drug personalities" killed in law enforcement operations as of last year. 

In a resolution, members of the Makabayan bloc said lawmakers have the duty to protect people's rights and "check on excesses and violations" committed against their constituents.

"[This] could open the floodgates for another wave of widespread rights violations and extrajudicial killings," the group said. "Even before the resolution, activists have been subjected to intense vilification, illegal detention, and even EJKs."

It is unlikely that the resolution will lead to hearings in the House, which is dominated by a supermajority supportive of the president and his policies.

Reps. Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna party-list) along with Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela party-list), Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list) and Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan party-list) nonetheless urged the House committee on human rights to look into the said campaign.

They added: "Laws and rules should serve the interest of our people, and should not be weaponized to suppress their rights and oppress them."

In the Cordillera region itself, police issued a shoot-to-kill order against another indigenous leader and activist Windel Bolinget should he resist arrest on a murder charge which he said was only made up. Bolinget has since put himself in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation.

In its June 2020 report on the Philippines, the UN Human Rights Office said red-tagging has grown to become institutionalized and normalized "in ways that will be very difficult to reverse."

"The implementation of the already controversial and notorious Oplan Tokhang to 'dissuade' activists and dissenters from airing otherwise legitimate concerns poses a threat to the country,s democracy," the Makabayan bloc continued.

The planned "Tokhang" gaianst leftists in the CAR comes on the heels of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's admission to the UN Human Rights Council that police had failed to follow protocols in many anti-drug operations. He also said police had not verified reports that "drug personalities" killed had resisted arrest violently. — Christian Deiparine with reports from Xave Gregorio

CORDILLERA ADMINISTRATIVE REGION HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MAKABAYAN BLOC PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE WAR ON DRUGS
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