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'Tokhang' campaign vs activists seen to wreak more havoc on human rights

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
'Tokhang' campaign vs activists seen to wreak more havoc on human rights
Undated photo shows Filipinos protesting the then anti-terrorism bill.
AFP / Aileen Dimatatac

MANILA, Philippines — Implementing “drug war” methods in the government’s counter-insurgency campaign is a “recipe for more human rights disaster,” the Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.

In this campaign, police and local officials visit the homes or offices of personalities the government accuses of working with or “fronting” for communist rebels. They “plead” with the activists to stop the communist cause.

But being a leftist is not a crime.

“Tokhang”—or “knock and plead”—operations were launched in 2016 when the government began its “war on drugs.” As originally planned, cops would do house-to-house campaign to convince suspected drug pushers and users to surrender. 

But the strategy is being blamed for the deaths of “drug personalities” either in law enforcement operations or at the hands of unknown killers.

“What’s to stop the authorities from claiming—falsely—that an activist they visited fought back, that’s why he or she was shot? This campaign is fraught with the same problems and issues we’ve seen in the “drug war”—extrajudicial killings, planting of evidence, among others,” said Carlos Conde, HRW senior researcher.

Cancel implementation of ‘tokhang’ campaign

Cordillera region officials recently passed a resolution adopting the “Dumanun Makitungtong” (Seek and Talk) strategy against “known members of left-leaning organization.”

The government equates being left-leaning as support for and membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army. It is an inaccurate assertion that has been used to justify what activists call a crackdown on legitimate and legal organizations.

Conde said the campaign “sows fear and restricts the already constrained democratic space in the Philippines.”

“This also exposes the Duterte government’s double talk and lack of sincerity in its promise to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines – a promise that underpins the human rights program it entered into with the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” he said.

HRW called on local government units that already issued to operationalize the campaign to rescind those issuances.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH OPLAN TOKHANG
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