Press Release
March 19, 2019

De Lima hits De la Rosa over insensitive 'Tokhang' joke

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has berated Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) senatorial candidate Ronald de la Rosa for his "insensitive" joke about the government's "Oplan Tokhang" to solicit applause from the public during the HNP campaign sorties in Calamba City, Laguna.

De Lima, the staunchest critic of the administration's war on drugs, said De la Rosa knows too well that "Oplan Tokhang" is no laughing matter and that no one should take lightly the suffering of the families of the victims of the government's war on drug war.

"Libu-libong kababayan natin ang napaslang sa Oplan Tokhang at patuloy pa ring nabibiktima ng pekeng kampanya laban sa droga ng rehimeng Duterte. Tila ba normal na lang talaga kay dating PNP Chief De la Rosa ang karahasang dulot nito kaya ganoon na lang kadali para sa kanya na gawin itong biro. But it's neither funny nor amusing," she said.

"Only sick people would dare make a joke out of Tokhang and its innocent victims for the sake of gaining public attention and securing votes in the upcoming midterm elections. So insensitive!," she added.

In a campaign sortie at the Rizal City Plaza, Laguna last March 9, De la Rosa jokingly told audience that they may become targets of "Oplan Tokhang" should they refuse to applaud him after he delivered his speech.

"Kung ayaw 'nyo pumalakpak, bukas ipa-Tokhang ko kayo sa pulis. O palakpakan kayo lahat diyan," he was quoted as saying.

Note that it was after Mr. Duterte appointed De la Rosa as Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief in 2016 that Command Memorandum Circular 16-2016 was issued implementing "Oplan Tokhang" on a national scale.

"Tokhang," the other word for PNP's anti-narcotics campaign which was first used by De la Rosa when he was still the Davao City police chief, has commonly been used by the public to refer to the act of killing itself.

If De la Rosa really cares about the welfare of the ordinary Juan de la Cruzes - especially the poor - as he proclaimed it, the former justice secretary said De la Rosa should be extra sensitive to their emotions.

"He should know better, that his foul jokes about 'Oplan Tokhang' can reopen past wounds and cause these people more pain and agony," she said.

"Imbes na gawing katatawanan ang isyu ng mga patayan na ibinubunsod ng Tokhang, mas mabuti kung ilatag niya ang kanyang plano kung paano matutuldukan ang karahasan at kung paano mabibigyan ng katarungan ang mga biktima ng EJK," she added.

The reported number of suspected drug offenders killed either through the so-called "legitimized" police operations or vigilante style executions since Duterte assumed office reached to more than 27,000.

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