By Catherine S Valente/Manila Times
Malacanang yesterday said Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo can stop the implementation of Oplan Tokhang if she has a better strategy to fight the drug menace.
“If she thinks there is something more effective than Tokhang, she can do it,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.
He added that President Rodrigo Duterte would give Robredo “all that she needs” in handling the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“Vice President Leni is in charge, so whatever she feels that should be enforced, we will do it… The president is open if that will be effective as far as the drug war is concerned. She has been given the authority,” Panelo said when asked if Robredo could stop the Tokhang operations.
Tokhang is a component of the Philippine National Police’s Oplan Double Barrel. Under Tokhang, lawmen are supposed to knock on drug suspects’ homes and ask them to stop their involvement in illegal drugs.
But Tokhang gained notoriety when it was associated with the killings of drug suspects, mostly in poor areas.
Robredo earlier said Tokhang was a war “against the poor.”
“Maybe it’s time for us to think about replacing it with another campaign that would be more effective, so no one would die senselessly,” she said. Robredo, who was appointed co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) had floated several ideas to address the drug problem, including the scrapping of Oplan Tokhang, as well as opening the anti-drug campaign to a United Nations’ probe.
Panelo said Duterte expected Robredo to be “on top” of the drug war and function as his “alter-ego.”
“As we have said, we will give her all that she needs. She should be given a wide latitude and she should pursue her own scheme of things in pursuing the drug war initiated by this administration,” the Palace official added.
Meanwhile, Panelo said the Palace has no problem with Robredo consulting various foreign officials, including the UN and United States, which have been critical of Duterte’s drug war.
“If she feels America can help in the drug war — the Americans have been helping us for a long time, sharing intelligence is one of them,” he said. “Let’s not interfere with her work,” he added.
Philippine National Police (PNP) officer in charge Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa also on Monday said he was open to other options to eliminate illegal drugs.
“I would like to open up options because we had a drug war, which I think is very successful, but if there is a need to recalibrate and maybe touch a few points, study it, then the PNP is open to it,” Gamboa said in a press briefing.
He noted that the government’s approach should be dynamic as “time changes.”
Gamboa said Robredo had a “very extensive” discussion in her first meeting as ICAD co-chairman last week.
The vice president suggested that Oplan Tokhang should be scrapped for a new campaign against illegal drugs.
She also suggested that the Philippine anti-illegal drugs strategy should be improved by adding “attainable” and “realistic” short-term targets by 2022.
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