Cordillera law enforcers plan 'Tokhang' campaign vs 'left-leaning personalities'

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
Cordillera law enforcers plan 'Tokhang' campaign vs 'left-leaning personalities'
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

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (Updated 2:35 p.m.) — Law enforcement agencies in the Cordillera region will adopt a “tokhang-type” campaign against the armed communist movement.

Under a Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC) resolution signed by 45 regional executives, government teams will visit so-called "left-leaning personalities", including government personnel and members of the media, as part of a counterinsurgency campaign.

"Tokhang", or "knock and plead", operations were launched in 2016 as the government began its "war on drugs." As originally planned, police officers would go to people on their "narco-lists" to convince them to surrender and to go into drug rehabilitation problems.

RELATED: No let up in ‘Tokhang’ even during lockdown

"Tokhang" has since come to be associated with the deaths of "drug personalities" either in law enforcement operations or by unknown killers. 
It is unclear how "Tokhang" will be implemented against "left-leaning" personalities since being a leftist is not illegal. The government, however, has been conflating activism and dissent with taking up arms against the government.

In its 2021 World Report entry on the Philippines, rights watchdog Human Rights Watch noted that "[l]eftist activists and human rights defenders were key targets of physical and online attacks."

"On August 17 (2020), unidentified gunmen shot dead Zara Alvarez, a legal worker for the human rights group Karapatan, in Bacolod City in the central Philippines. Alvarez’s killing came a week after peasant leader Randall Echanis was found dead, apparently tortured, in his home in Quezon City. Alvarez was the 13th Karapatan member killed during the Duterte administration."

Rights monitor Karapatan also tallied 328 extrajudicial killings of activists and rights workers between July 2016 and August 2020, according to its May-August 2020 monitor, its most recent report.

READ: 'Being leftist is far from being a terrorist,' Justice secretary stresses

Police Brig. Gen. RWin Pagkalinawan, who co-chairs the RLECC with NBI-Cordillera regional director Hector Geologo said police officers are now undergoing special training to operationalize the "tokhang-style" campaign that will be implemented at the baragay level.

According to RLECC Resolution No. 4, series of 2021, police officers will be joined by church leaders and members, NGOs, and barangay officials for the "tokhang."

The plan of the RLECC members, according Pagkalinawan, will be brough to the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) for their concurrence and adoption, as well as to convince LGUs to support the campaign.

RELATED: Cordillera police's 'shoot to kill' order vs IP leader 'concerning,' CHR says




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