Bishop hits PNP, says Oplan TokHang 'a bringer of death'

MANILA, Philippines – Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani on Wednesday, January 18, criticized the Philippine National Police (PNP)  and denounced its anti-drug campaign Oplan TokHang as a "bringer of death."

In a speech at the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), Bacani scored the PNP for failing to catch the killers of more than 4,000 suspected drug pushers and users in cases outside police operations.  

"My goodness, 4,000 people, and you know how many people have been apprehended and convicted? Hardly anyone," Bacani said in a speech at the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Santo Tomas, Batangas.

"What kind of police force do we have that cannot catch the killers of 4,000 people? We ask that. And in the name of God's mercy, we ask that," Bacani said. 

Data from the PNP show that more than 6,700 people have died in the Duterte administration's war on drugs.

As of January 9, the PNP classified at least 4,146 murder cases as done outside police operations.

TokHang 'not bringer of grace'

While taking the PNP to task for failing to apprehend vigilantes, Bacani also slammed the anti-drug campaign Oplan TokHang.

TokHang is a contraction of the Visayan words "toktok" (knock) and "hangyo" (request).

Oplan TokHang refers to the PNP strategy to go house to house and convince drug pushers and users to surrender. The public has also associated the word with killings of drug suspects, while a Senate panel has called it unconstitutional.

Laying the context for his criticism, Bacani said, "Today, the Lord in his mercy knocks, and when he knocks, he brings grace."

"Today, we in the Philippines, we also get knocks. We call it TokHang. But this TokHang is not a bringer of grace. It is a bringer of death," the bishop said.

"TokHang. When you open, it might be bang-bang. You're dead," he added at WACOM.

WACOM is a 5-day gathering of devotees of the Divine Mercy, which is hosted by the Philippines this year.

Earlier in the congress, other bishops, while tackling issues connected to mercy, also criticized the recent drug-related killings in the Philippines. 

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, for instance, said Catholics cannot be indifferent toward these killings. He said the public's attitude toward these murders also shows that Filipinos do not practice their faith. 

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo had also urged Catholics to speak up against the recent killings. –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at