Council revives proposal for 'tokhang' campaign vs Cordillera leftists

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
Council revives proposal for 'tokhang' campaign vs Cordillera leftists
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 — Officials in the Cordillera region are trying to revive a proposal to use "tokhang" tactics used in the government's "war on drugs" against activists and rights workers.

The proposal, which would have barangay officials talk to supposed leftists to convince them to not be leftists anymore, was raised earlier this year and died on the vine over criticism that it would be open to abuse. Neither being a leftist or even a communist are actual crimes in the Philippines.

The Cordillera Regional Peace and Order Council (CRPOC) passed a resolution this week adopting the “Dumanun Makitungtong” (Seek and Talk) strategy against alleged "known members of left-leaning organizations."

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

Cordillera Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Council (CRLECC) Number 06, Series of 2021, or "A resolution enjoining the members of the law enforcement agencies together with the representatives of local government units (LGUs), religious sector, and NGOs to conduct 'Dumanun Makitungtong' strategy to known members of Communist Front Organizations (CFOs)" was adopted during the third quarter CRLECC meeting in Baguio City.

The strategy includes house visits to members of supposed front organizations to persuade them to stop dealing with or supporting the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front in the region. 

Araceli San Jose, OIC-regional director of Department of the Interior and Local Government, who heads secretariat of Cordillera Regional Peace and Order Council, said the strategy "is in support of the priority thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte in addressing the insurgency."

The CRPOC urged the Provincial and Highly Urbanized City Peace and Order Councils to adopt the RLECC resolution and strategy and to have their component Local Peace and Order Councils also adopt the strategy.

February proposal

A petition against a similar proposal was filed in February over fears of political repression. The Baguio City court where the petition was filed declined to issue a Temporary Restraining Order.

Police Brig. Gen. RWin Pagkalinawan, regional director at the time but who has since retired, said the proposal "was not a bloodthirsty campaign, but the same strategy of visiting or actually knocking on homes of left-leaning personalities (including the media and government personnel) around the villages and making a plea to shun support for the CPP-NPA-NDF."

The new resolution does not include media as targets of the "tokhang"-type campaign.

Police Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee, the new regional director and a former chief of the Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group that primarily implemented the "tokhang" campaign, has been silent on the proposal.




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