CAGAYAN de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said he will not encourage priests to take part in knock and plead operations, better known as "Oplan Tokhang," saying the Catholic Church is willing to help drug users in other ways but will leave the police to conduct Tokhang operations.
Ledesma said will help drug users who will opt for treatment and rehabilitation.
"Tan-awon nato ang particular circumstances, but ang gusto lang namo nga anha na matabangan ang drug users, once they respond to the invitation, once magpa-ayo na sila sa ilang addiction (We will look into particular circumstances, but we want to help the drug users, once they respond to the invitation, once they are ready to heal their addiction)," Ledesma said.
Ledesma added they are willing to put the drug users in one place but not through doing police actions.
As soon as the police launched the Oplan Tokhang, the church noticed the lack of programs after drug users respond to the police campaign.
Ledesma urged parish priests to open their churches to become a sanctuaries for silence, prayer, retreats, and recollections for drug addicts.
He said churches can become venue for recollection and counseling to compensate with the lack of rehabilitation centers in the country.
Last March 6, the police re-launched the Philippine National Police's Project Double Barrel reloaded and Oplan Tokhang 2, a revamped version in the government’s war on drugs.
The order said Tokhang activities shall be done with barangay captains and/or barangay officials, church leaders or representatives, and territorial commanders like the chief of police or station commander.
Although the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office said they are not forcing religious leaders to join in Tokhang operations, police units still cannot proceed with the operation without representatives from the religious sector and barangay officials.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 20, 2017.