MANILA – The Philippine police, after a four-month hiatus, resumed on Monday its “tokhang” anti-drug raids in which nearly 4,000 alleged traffickers have been killed since the country’s president assumed power more than 18 months ago and declared a war on drugs.
The police carried out anti-drug raids across the country, but under stricter guidelines in order to prevent unnecessary spilling of blood, said Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa in a televised press conference.
Under the new norms, the officers can only conduct “tokhang” activities during the day, which will occasionally involve video cameras, or will include the involvement of activists and representatives of the Catholic Church.
“Tokhang” means “knock on the door and beg” in the Visayan dialect of Cebuano and is the official name of police operations in Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
Moreover, if the suspect resists arrest, the police will hand over the case to a special agency, which appears to be in response to criticism of the apparent ease with which officers pulled the trigger at the slightest sign of resistance.
The police chief stressed that the rule of law will prevail in the new phase of the anti-drug war, but did not rule out the police killing some alleged trafficker in extreme cases.
The police, the executive arm of the anti-drug war, was removed from this campaign from Oct. 12 to Dec. 5 due to several scandals, among them the death of presumably innocent minors.
Until then, the number of people killed by officers reached 4,000, although the total number of killings in the anti-drug war is estimated to be more than 7,000 when taking into account deaths by individuals and neighborhood vigilante groups encouraged by the environment of impunity.
On Dec. 5, the police forces were brought back into the campaign, and have conducted arrests and shootings in which suspects have died, however the controversial raids had not resumed until now.