IN a span of just two weeks, there were four attempts to bring into the country huge quantities of illegal drugs, albeit thwarted, all at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.
On October 2, Jonjon Villamin, a 22-year-old Filipino student, was nabbed at the said airport terminal with 25 kilos of cocaine which has an estimated street value of at least P25 million.
Three days later, or on October 5, Hong Kong nationals Chan Kawai and Pau Homanevan and Kirdyushkin Yury, a Russian national, were apprehended also at the NAIA Terminal 3 while carrying some 27 kilos of prohibited drugs. Estimates put the drugs seized from them at P140 million and of the total amount of drugs confiscated, around 7.4 kilos of suspected cocaine in powder form and 2.5 kilos of liquid cocaine were seized from the Russian while the two Chinese had nine kilos of powder shabu hidden inside their luggage.
Then over the weekend, or last October 15, a pretty Brazilian, 20-year-old Yasmin Fernandes Silva, was nabbed while carrying 6.2 kilograms of high-grade cocaine which were surreptitiously placed inside a black pillow to make it appear that they are mere fillers.
Yesterday, Venezuelan Genesis Lorena Pineda Salazar, 22, was arrested with 4.4 kilos of high-grade cocaine worth some P20 million hidden in sachets of hair solution. Like the others before her, the prohibited drugs were likewise found in her check-in baggage which was inspected by Customs-NAIA authorities right after she retrieved it from the carousel.
While Villamin, the two Hong Kong nationals and the Russian all used the conventional way of using the lining of their luggage in hiding the drugs, the women suspects made use of more innovative ones. The Brazilian had the drugs stuffed in a pillow case purportedly as fillers while the Venezuelan brought the cocaine in the guise of hair coloring solutions and even had them put in separate sachets, complete with labeling.
Notably, all four cases seem to have certain common denominators. All the passengers involved came from Brazil and arrived via Emirates flight EK 332 at about the same time.
Most are also young. I don’t know the age of the Russian and the two Hong Kong nationals but the three others are in their early 20s.
Salazar and Silva both arrived at shortly before 6 p.m. from Sao Paolo, Brazil via Dubai. The Russian and two Hong kong nationals on the other hand, flew in around 4:30 p.m. from Rio, Brazil, also via Dubai.
The lone Filipino suspect, Villamin, meantime, likewise arrived from Brazil via Dubai. In his case, he said he was invited by a Brazilian friend whom he met while he was working for a telecoms company in the Philippines. In exchange for the free airfare and hotel, Villamin said he agreed to bring to Manila two pieces of luggage which the Brazilian told him will be picked up by the latter’s contact in the country.
Once again, credit goes to the joint efforts exerted by the NAIA-Inter-Agency Anti-Illegal Drugs Task Group (IADITG), Bureau of Customs (BOC) headed by District Collector Ed Macabeo, the Bureau of Immigration under Commissioner Jaime Morente, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), under General Manager Ed Monreal and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
The US-Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) particularly deserves credit for providing the intelligence information that largely contributed to the huge drug busts.
Why do these things continue happening despite loud pronouncements being made by President Rodrigo Duterte regarding his iron-clad stance against illegal drugs?
It is also worth pondering why attempts to bring into the country such large amounts of drugs keep coming even if apprehensions are being made left and right and duly publicized. Are these drug mules or those behind them simply that bold or plain stupid? If they are just bold, then why and who are their coddlers? Why Brazil and why NAIA 3?
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