Lawyers condemn Tokhang Relaunched, call for stronger justice system

Photo by Maegan Gaspar

Text by John Patrick Manio

Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings (MANLABAN sa EJK) called for the end extrajudicial killings and human rights violations under Tokhang Relaunched in the Rise, Resist, Unite Against Tokhang and Tyranny forum, Wednesday.

“19 months into Duterte’s term, there is still no let up in the bloody drug war. Even under the revived Tokhang, allegedly conducted with better safeguards and during ‘office hours’, 65 were killed between January 29 and February 14, 2018 – a rate of at least four people per day”, said MANLABAN Convenor Neri Colmenares.

The organization also asked the public and authorities to seek for concrete solutions to the continuing issues of crime and corruption.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has since taken an estimated number of 12,000 people, including UP student Karl Arnaiz and youth Kian delos Santos and Reynaldo de Guzman.

The memorandum on Oct. 11, 2017 ordered the PNP to seize operations on the anti-drug war. It was then to be handled by PDEA, due to the uncontrollable degree of human rights violations. However, it was revoked on Jan. 23, 2018 under the revamped Tokhang Relaunched.

Due to its issues in overriding the law, Oplan Tokhang faced scrutiny in the past, and has continued to receive such criticism, even with its updated version, being Tokhang Relaunched.

“Project Tokhang and Tokhang Relaunched are unconstitutional. The entire circular (CMC 16 – 2016) shortcuts the justice process and assigns the PNP as judge, jury, and executioner” , said FLAG Lawyer and Dean of DLSU College of Law Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno.

The forum highlighted the little difference between the original Oplan Tokhang and Tokhang Relaunched. Some noted how this move to streamline Oplan Tokhang was implemented, simply to appease critics, instead of actually causing serious change.

Colmenares went on to say, “In fact, Tokhang Relaunched is as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the original because it was redressed to make it seem better than the former when it’s not. Also, it desensitizes us to the seemingly lesser number of EJK victims.”

Diokno mused how the whole war on drugs is defeatist to the populace to start with.

“The war on drugs is not only anti-poor. It is also anti-law, anti-rule of law, and pro-authoritarianism”, said Atty. Diokno.

Call for action and concrete solutions

The uproar and determined nature stated by individuals, groups, and institutions against EJK help moderate the killings, We haven’t stopped the killings but we have moderated the killings.” said the Executive Vice President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Atty. Domingo “Egon” Cayosa.

He added, “The fact that there are less EJKs under Tokhang 2 is not mission accomplished for us.”

The forum’s speakers were able to state reasons and solutions, in response to the adamant drug problem and the rampant abuse of human rights and its lack of justice.

“We, too, in FLAG (Free Legal Assistance Group) don’t want crime and corruption, but we must ask why crime and corruption are rampant in the country”, assesses Atty. Diokno. “It is because of our weak justice system and the only solution is to strengthen this justice system.”

Atty. Colmenares then gave the verdict, saying, “The solution of President Duterte should not be to eliminate the addicts, and even the druglords for that matter, but to solve also the economic problems of our society.”

Author: TNP

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