THE Philippine National Police is targeting three transnational drug organizations operating in the country, exploiting the largely unguarded coastlines of the Philippines and using the international and local airports and seaports as well as mail and parcel services to transport illegal drugs and its controlled precursors and essential chemicals, officials said yesterday.
PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa, identified the three foreign drug rings as the Chinese or Filipino-Chinese drug syndicates, the African drug syndicates and the Mexican-Sinaloa Drug Cartel. At present, shabu continues to be the most abused drug in the country followed by marijuana and costly party drugs like cocaine and the designer drug called ‘Ecstasy.’
Chinese or Filipino-Chinese drug rings dominate the drug market in the country facilitating either the production, manufacture and bulk smuggling of shabu into the country to ensure an adequate supply of drugs.
Police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officials said their activities are largely concentrated within their group, with the inclusion of very few and well-selected locals.
This is the reason why many clandestine shabu laboratories which have been smashed by the PNP and the PDEA in the past yielded Chinese, Taiwanese or Filipino-Chinese nationals. Shabu ‘cooks’ from Mainland China are believed being smuggled into the country by the syndicate and are returned quickly into their native land as soon as they have finished production of drugs.
In many cases, arrested Filipinos turned out to be merely employed by the syndicate to act as ‘utility workers’ or ‘runners’ while some members of the syndicate married Filipinas to justify their stay in the country and use their partners as ‘dummies’ in their business fronts.
The African drug syndicates are responsible for smuggling drugs thru the Ninoy Aquino International Airports and other international airports in the country using mules or so-called ‘swallowers.’
At present, over 800 Filipinos are languishing in jails abroad for drug smuggling, some of them in China, Thailand and Indonesia and as far as Brazil. Some are also awaiting their death sentence.
In March 2011, three Filipinos -- Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, 32; Ramon Credo, 42; and Elizabeth Batain, 38 -- convicted of drug smuggling were put to death by lethal injection by the Chinese government
The three were arrested separately in 2008 carrying packages containing at least four kilograms of heroin and were convicted the following year. Smuggling more than 50 grams of heroin or other drugs is punishable by death in China.
‘Mules’ or couriers are persons who smuggle contraband across a border for a smuggling organization. African drug syndicates are known for using overseas Filipino workers to smuggle drugs, either attaching them to one’s body, or using the body as a container.
Many Filipinos convicted abroad have claimed innocence of the charges against them. They were arrested while carrying drugs hidden in the bag. The PNP has also recorded several incidents in which locals have acted as ‘mules’ or those involved in body packing.
In the early 2000, police arrested a Filipino who was found to have swallowed packages of cocaine when he was subjected into an abdominal X-ray. African syndicates are known for asking their ‘mules’ to swallow tiny balloons mostly made from condoms or fingers of latex gloves with small quantities of drugs.
A drug mule may swallow dozens upon dozens of balloons and after successfully crossing an international border will excrete the balloons and sell the drugs on behalf of the syndicate.
On the other hand, the Mexican-Sinaloa Drug Cartel is a new group operating in the country and associated with the Chinese Drug Group to penetrate the local market.
The existence of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in the country was uncovered during a raid in a cockfighting farm in Lipa City in Batangas in February 2014 which led to the seizure of around 84 kilograms of shabu then worth P420 million. President Duterte has confirmed that the Mexican Sinaloa Drug Syndicate is using the country as another base of operations, worrying the PNP and the PDEA since the ring is one of the world’s most powerful organized crime groups.
Named after the state on Mexico’s Pacific Coast where it was formed in 1989, the cartel’s heartland extends from Sinaloa to Mexico’s Durango and Chihuahua states. But it is known to operate in locations as diverse as Russia, Australia and Sierra Leone.
On orders of Gen. Dela Rosa, special police units will set their sights on the three foreign drug rings and other ‘high-value’ targets under its Project HVT.
Project HVT is part of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign Plan called Project: Double Barrel ordered by Gen. Dela Rosa since he took over as the country’s top cop last July 1. Over the past three months, police have shot and killed nearly 1,400 armed drug traffickers in gunbattles across the country and arrested over 22,000 others. These operations, however, have cost the lives of 13 policemen and three soldiers and injuries to 38 other police officers and eight Armed Forces personnel.
The conduct of the PNP Oplan: Tokhang during the period has also resulted in the surrender of around 734,000 confessed drug personalities composed of more than 680,000 shabu or marijuana users and over 53,000 drug traffickers. Police have already visited nearly 1.7 million houses since the Oplan: Tokhang was implemented.
Gen. Dela Rosa said that since they were given another six months to rid the country of illegal drugs, they would take time to evaluate their performance during the first six months, after which they would modify their strategy.
The PNP chief described Project HVT as a massive and reinvigorated conduct of anti-illegal drug operations targeting illegal drug personalities and drug syndicates in the national, regional, district, provincial and city levels to avoid overlapping of operational functions.
Under the project, the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, headed by Senior Superintendent Albert Ignatius D. Ferro, has been tasked to go after national and regional level drug trafficking and foreigners involved in large-scale drug smuggling, manufacturing and trafficking.
On the other hand, the Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Groups, headed by the 18 police regional office directors, are under orders to concentrate on illegal drug trafficking across district/provincial boundaries.
The Provincial AIDSOTGs, headed by the provincial director, the District AIDSOTGs, headed by the five district directors of the National Capital Region Police Office, and City AISOTGs, headed by the different city directors/chiefs of police, meanwhile, will be responsible for eradicating street-level drug distribution in their areas thru barangay drug-clearing operations pursuant to Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 2 Series of 2007.