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Provincial board to police: Do not relax drugs efforts

Kristine B. Quintas, Michael Vencynth H. Braga (The Freeman) - February 13, 2017 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Even as the Philippine National Police suspended the "Oplan Tokhang," the Provincial Board wants authorities here to continue strengthening its anti-drugs efforts.

In a resolution penned by Board Member Raul Bacaltos, the Board said the Provincial Police Office and police stations across the province must not slacken.

"Despite the aggressive and focused efforts of the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies, illegal activities of drug personalities managed to proliferate in many communities, thus there is a need for the active involvement of LGUs including the barangays in this campaign against illegal drugs that wrought havoc to the lives of the vast sector of our society," the resolution reads.

The PNP suspended Oplan Tokhang following the outrage over the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo by members of the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group in Luzon.

The Provincial Board believes, however, that this is not a reason for local authorities to let their guard down.

"While the PNP as shifted focus to clean its organization from corrupt officials and personnel, they must also keep its mandate strong and credible before the people they pledged to serve and protect," the PB resolution reads.

The Board also called on local governments and barangays to revitalize, if not strengthen, their anti-drug abuse councils.

"Strengthening the anti-drug abuse councils is deemed essential to safeguard the communities by implementing anti-drug abuse programs and projects in their respective areas," the resolution reads.

In fact, Bacaltos said, now is the time for communities to be help the PNP, considering the agency's shift in focus from aggressive anti-illegal drugs operations to internal cleansing.

He said drug personalities should not be given the chance to penetrate communities anew.

Unconstitutional?

As this develops, a retired judge reminded the police to be cautious in their anti-drugs campaign.

Retired judge Meinrado Paredes, former executive judge of the Regional Trial Court in Cebu City, opined that the controversial Oplan Tokhang is unconstitutional and fails to observe proper procedure.

In an interview with The FREEMAN, Paredes said the police must be armed with a search warrant before they enter or knock on the house of a drug pusher or user.

"That is a constitutional provision, way balaod makasupak sa Constitution. We are secured in our persons, houses, papers and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures…  Ang pagtoktok nga way search warrant is illegal itself," he said.

The exception to the requirement for a search warrant, he said, is if the police obtained consent to conduct a search without it.

He said any contraband seized by the police in a warrantless search is "inadmissible evidence."

This means that evidence seized, regardless of the quantity, cannot be accepted as valid evidence in court.

The Oplan Tokhang originated in Davao City with police officers knocking on the houses of suspected drug pusher or user and persuade them to surrender or stop their illegal drug activity. From houses and villages, the campaign eventually covered subdivisions and condominiums.

Aside from knocking and pleading, the protocol under Oplan Tokhang (contraction of toktok and hangyo) consists of documentation or profiling of the self-confessed drug user or peddler, validation and evaluation of the profiles, treatment and disposition, and monitoring.

Those who surrendered are also being interviewed by the police to obtain his background and other information that would later help authorities in their pursuit against illegal drugs.

Senator Richard Gordon said a suspected drug user and pusher who signs a document and admits his use of illegal drugs should be assisted by a lawyer.

Gordon said the Tokhang system also violates the rights against self-incrimination, or making statements or producing evidence which tends to prove that one is guilty of a crime.

But Senior Superintendent Joel Doria, Cebu City Police Office director, stood pat on the regularity of Oplan Tokhang.

He said the subjects of their Tokhang operations who had been identified by the barangays are merely asked to stop their illegal drug activities or surrender to the authorities. As part of the procedure of the city police, a sticker is pasted on the door to indicate that the house has already been visited.

There is no arrest made or case filed against those who surrendered and heeded to the police's plea so the admissions could not be taken against them, he added.

He said they even assess surrenderers so they can undergo livelihood trainings and rehabilitation. (FREEMAN)

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