THE global drug problem has affected the country since decades ago, a main threat inherited by the 3-month old Duterte administration which has ordered the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to spearhead the massive crackdown against illegal drug trafficking and abuse.
Records showed that since last July 1 when PNP chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa launched the PNP Anti-Illegal Drug Campaign Plan called Project: Double Barrel, police have already conducted nearly 23,700 anti-narcotics operations which led in the arrest of over 22,700 known drug personalities and the killing of nearly 1,400 armed drug traffickers during gunfights with arresting officers.
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 Oplan: Tokhang was implemented.
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.
In his 100-day report on the war against illegal drugs, PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña said the voluntary surrender during the period of 733,635 drug personalities which comprise 24 percent of the 3.7 million drug users nationwide is considered a ‘breakthrough in the history of drug law enforcement in the country.’
The PDEA chief said the abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants such as shabu, ecstasy and cocaine and of marijuana has been evident in the results of anti-drug operations conducted by the PDEA, the PNP and other law enforcement agencies across the country.
A 2015 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) showed that in 2015, East and Southeast Asia are the biggest consumers of shabu worldwide.
In the Philippines, a significant increase of 4,004 percent in the seizure of shabu, the most abused drug in the country, was observed in the combined seizure from 2013 to 2015 of 2,152 kilograms of the so-called ‘poor man’s cocaine’ and from 2010 to 2012 of 430 kilos of shabu.
Seizure of ecstasy tablets has also been continuously increasing since 2014, Lapeña said. From 52 tablets seized in 2013, the official said that it increased to 3,599 and 2,902 tablets confiscated in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
A drastic increase during the first semester of 2016 was further observed with the seizure of 9,617 ecstasy tablets, the highest seizure in the country since 2012. Lapeña said most of the drugs seized were coming from the Netherlands.
The PDEA chair said that the thriving of ecstasy in the market was aggravated by the use of ‘bitcoin’ to purchase ecstasy only. First discovered by Philippine authorities in 2014, bitcoin is a digital or virtual currency that uses online technology to facilitate instant payments.
Variations of ecstasy were then introduced to the market by drug syndicates. Seizures of ‘fly high’ which is a combination of ecstasy, shabu and Cialis or the Chinese ‘viagra’, green apple, amore and liquid ecstasy were recorded in the country during the same period.
To avoid detection by authorities, drug syndicates employ various concealment methods. In 2013, the first drug ‘swallower’ was recorded with the arrest of a national from Benin, a West African kingdom who attempted to smuggle drugs by swallowing 60 capsules of shabu weighing 448.81 grams valued at P2.5 million.
The 2nd drug swallower was arrested in 2015 with the arrest of a Venezuelan national at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 for swallowing 92 pellets of cocaine weighing 1.17 kilos or roughly more than P5 million.
According to the PNP and the PDEA, three transnational drug syndicates were operating in the country namely: Chinese Drug Syndicates, African Drug Syndicates and the Mexican Sinaloa Drug Cartel.
Chinese Drug Syndicates dominate the drug market here. They are responsible in the manufacture and bulk smuggling of shabu into the country. Most members of these syndicates include Chinese drug lords incarcerated at the New Bilibid Prisons who were still able to continue their illegal drug activities by facilitating the smuggling of shabu and the establishment of shabu laboratories in the country. Reportedly, they control 70-80 percent of supply of shabu in the country.
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 in the market.
African Drug Syndicates on the other hand smuggle drugs into the country thru the airports using couriers or ‘swallowers.’ 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.
On the other hand, the Mexican-Sinaloa Drug Cartel is known to have partnered with Chinese drug lords in engaging in illegal drug activities in the country. 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 in 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.