HOURS after Cebu call center agent Niño Rodel Taboada was buried amid cries for justice from his family, the police hierarchy ordered that “Oplan Tokhang” be suspended.
No, the suspension was not because of Taboada, who his family said was a victim of mistaken identity when he was killed by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agents in a raid on his house in Barangay Duljo Fatima, Cebu City, last January 19.
His family buried him Sunday afternoon in an outpouring of support to the call for justice, for the Commission on Human Rights to investigate his death. Taboada was killed in line with the police’s war against drugs through “Oplan Tokhang,” the campaign to knock on doors of suspects and ask them to surrender. Taboada reportedly fought back and was shot.
It was after the controversial kidnapping and death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo that the police hierarchy stopped the campaign and decided to first clean up its ranks. The South Korean national’s killing in the hands of rogue policemen and inside Camp Crame, the police national headquarters, became an embarrassment to the organization and Police National Chief Ronald dela Rosa.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night, just hours after Taboada was buried, ordered the dismantling of all anti-illegal drug police units in the wake of the scandal. It had to take the death of a foreigner for the police to stop their anti-illegal drugs campaign and clean up their ranks.
The details of how the South Korean national was kidnapped then killed were as scandalous as the circumstances that surrounded the thousands of killings of persons believed innocent or said to have been victims of mistaken identity, such as Taboada. Instances of planted evidence, personal grudge and targeting the innocent have marked some of the drug killings.
The clear and positive development from all these was the demand for a cleansing of the national police and a campaign against crime. Duterte did not categorically end the drug war but he ordered the dismantling of police units responsible for the visits to suspects’ homes.
There must be guidelines and a timetable for the new police direction so efforts would be coordinated and focused on the delivery of results. What is the timetable for correcting the breakdown in discipline among the police? Will that period be the timeframe also for the tokhang suspension?
The campaign to clean up the police organization cannot be focused on Metro Manila only or on Camp Crame. Scalawags do not respect jurisdiction and do not limit nefarious activities to an area. They can be in barangay, city or provincial police stations.
This strategy change of the administration may just gain more supporters than the controversial and at times questionable ways of battling illegal drugs. But vigilance should continue to see that the new strategy be not for show or not another way of violating people’s rights.