Civil society hits ‘tokhang’ for counterinsurgency

August 27, 2021

Photo from Ted Aljibe/AFP/GettyImages

August 27, 2021

Civil society hits ‘tokhang’ for counterinsurgency

Civil society organizations strongly denounce Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Guillermo Eleazar’s backing of the “tokhang” policy against suspected rebels.

Initially, Eleazar warned the Cordillera Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in its “dumanun makitungtung” (which literally translates to “visit and discuss”, making it the Ilocano counterpart of ‘Toktok Hangyo’ or commonly known as ‘tokhang’) strategy, saying that it is vulnerable to human rights violations.

On Tuesday, August 24, Eleazar however retracted this statement by saying that such effort to quell counterinsurgency is appreciated and that the PNP shall provide assistance to ensure the protection of basic human rights.

“It is widely known that the ‘tokhang’ method does not, in any way, respect the basic rights of the people. Years of its implementation only resulted in violations and injustices. It even normalized the ‘nanlaban’ narrative which deprived victims of due process of law and even led to killings,” stated Liza Maza, spokesperson of the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG).

Earlier this year, then Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Atty. Fatou Bensouda announced that the ICC intends to investigate the gross human rights violations committed by the Duterte government in its War on Drugs. Additionally, former Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that law enforcement personnel committed irregularities in ‘nanlaban’ cases by failing to follow standard operating procedures in processing crime scenes.

‘Tanim-ebidensya’ is also part and parcel of Oplan Tokhang. The same is used in arresting activists where firearms and explosives are planted as evidence to justify their imprisonment. Such actions violate the right to presumption of innocence for all individuals deemed as ‘suspects’.

CPDG also preemptively raises the alarm on the chilling effect of such operations that proliferate in communities as it might affect the behavior of voters in the coming 2022 elections. Maza added: “The government, especially its law enforcement personnel should ensure free elections and the exercise of the citizens’ right to vote, without intimidation and harassment”.

“‘If Gen. Eleazar really wants to reform the PNP and ensure that it upholds basic human rights in any of its operations, it should veer away from Oplan Tokhang and pursue just and humane methods. Moreover, it should study the reasons for dissent and why there are people who take up arms” Maza ended. #