PNP knocks on hearts of commuters on Valentine's Day

MANILA, Philippines – Two weeks after it relaunched its controversial Oplan TokHang, the Philippine National Police (PNP) sought to woo the public on Valentine's Day with gifts of flowers and song and dance numbers.

On Wednesday, February 14, Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) passengers in Cubao were greeted by policemen bearing roses and safety pamphlets as the commuters boarded and alighted the train.

Dubbed as "Katok ng Pagbabago Mula sa Puso (Plea for Change From the Heart),"  the cops also delivered song and dance numbers during the event, backed up by a band.

According to Senior Superintendent Bartolome Bustamante, PNP Community Relations Group (PCRG) deputy chief, they held the event to develop a closer relationship with the public.

"Isa po ito sa mga pamamaraan para po malapit ang ating mga kapulisan sa ating mga mamamayan na 'yung soft side ba ng ating PNP maipakita nila (This is one of the ways that our policemen can get closer to our citizens, where they can show their soft side)," Bustamante told reporters on the sidelines of the program.

THIS MORNING: The PNP hands roses and safety tip pamphlets to commuters in celebration of Valentine’s Day. @rapplerdotcom — Rambo Talabong (@rambotalabong) February 14, 2018

Bustamante denied that the project was an attempt to cover up the stink of the controversial Oplan TokHang. (READ: Dela Rosa on PNP's drug war return: 'We have learned a lot of lessons')

"Hindi naman ito pabango eh. Talagang gusto naming mapalapit sa ating mga kababayan, magkaron ng tiwala ang ating mga kababayan sa ating mga kapulisan (This is not a cover up. We really want to become closer to our fellow citizens, to restore their trust in the police force)," Bustamante said.

The PCRG is campaigning for a cleaner image of Oplan Tokhang as the PNP considers it as a "community relations activity." The PNP has repeatedly said that the literal knock-and-plead visitations should be seen as efforts to reach out rather than hardline crime-fighting police operations. (READ: PDEA chief wants PNP to drop the term tokhang)

"TokHang is not a bad word. We know that over so many months it got a new meaning, but the true meaning of that is good, to ask people to do away with drugs," Bustamante added.

The effort to reach out to the public came just two weeks after the PNP relaunched Oplan Tokhang with new stringent rules aimed to prevent police abuse.  –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.