Profiling “Voluntary Surrenderers” of Oplan Tokhang in Marikina City, Philippines: An Emic View

Leonardo R. Estacio


Background: This study was undertaken in response to the lack of contextualized and grounded description of surrendered drug offenders (e.g voluntary surrrenderers) provided to the media and to the public by the law enforcement agencies on the Oplan TokHang campaign of the Duterte administration.

Objective: This paper sought to provide a profile of “voluntary surrenderers” of Oplan TokHang in 4 selected barangays in Marikina City. Specifically, it aimed to describe their socio-demographic characteristics, drug use behaviors, underlying reasons for initial and continued drug use, severity of use, and the nature and reasons behind their participation to the Oplan TokHang campaign, respectively.

Methodology: A total of 56 participants were surveyed and descriptive statistics was used in the presentation and analysis of data. These were triangulated by direct observation, local studies and international studies, data from national agencies and news reports.

Results: Most of the voluntary surrenderers in the study were drug users rather than user-pushers and were predominantly single, male, high school educated and were observed to be in their most productive years yet unemployed. They abused shabu and marijuana and started to take drug in their mid-adolescent years. Although users for 1 to 2 years, more than majority of them were mild users, taking drugs on a weekly basis that were sourced from their friends and from drug pushers. Exposed to drug- using friends and relatives, most were initiated to drugs because of peer influence, personal and family problems. They continued to use drugs because
they were not able to resolve these personal and social relations issues. Being jobless, most sustained their drugtaking behavior by committing petty crimes such as selling household goods, drug-pushing and theft. Afraid to be killed and wanting to be rehabilitated, they participated in the TokHang campaign for safety and for self-change.

Conclusion: Voluntary surrenderers in the study were not as violent and dangerous as generally reported by media and by law enforcers. As mild users, they were not those types that were considered as “beyond redemption” but were rather capable of self-change. These primary data were reflective of national reports that 90 percent of surrenderers were mild users. Policy-wise, the study suggests that government should, through the Oplan TokHang campaign, shift more focus in providing community-based treatment and rehabilitation program that is responsive, sustainable, protective, and rights-respecting of voluntary surrenderers.


war on drugs; Oplan Tokhang; voluntary surrenderers; drug users; user-pushers; responsive and rightrespecting community-based treatment and rehabilitation program


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