Drug syndicates are apparently mocking President Rodrigo Duterte and his war against drugs — the centerpiece program of his administration that struck a resonant chord in the sentiment of the Filipino people and catapulted him into the presidency.
The tell-tale sign of such challenge is that shabu is back in the streets with a vengeance.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino recently bared shabu prices plunged to their lowest at P1,600 to P2,000 per gram in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The reason? Oversupply. Aquino traced the oversupply to the P6.8-billion shabu shipment that made its way to a warehouse in Cavite and now circulating in the streets.
From all indications, the drug syndicates managed to smuggle into the country and distribute in the local market the P6.8-billion shabu shipment because of collusion among corrupt policemen, Customs and PDEA officials.
Prior to this, the government’s anti-drug war had already gained considerable ground.
Official data show that from 2 July 2016 to 21 August 2018, authorities had seized a total of P24.1 million in drugs, precursor chemicals and laboratory equipment. For the same period, P17.38-billion shabu was confiscated.
The relentless anti-drug war resulted in the arrest of 155, 193 drug personalities and 4,854 others during such operations.
A total of 576 government workers, consisting of 247 elected officials, 271 government employees and 58 uniformed personnel, were arrested.
Likewise, as a consequence of the internal cleaning of the law enforcement services some 279 were dismissed from the service for drug use and 105 others were dismissed for other drug-related offenses.
As a result of the drug war, the Philippine National Police (PNP) noted a 25-percent drop in the crime rate from January to June this year in the NCR compared to the same period in 2017.
But the price paid for such achievement is steep. Dozens of law enforcers have been killed in anti-drug operations.
Barely a week ago, five PDEA agents were killed by unknown gunmen in Kapai, Lanao del Sur while they were on their way to Marawi City after a dialogue with former drug dependents.
If the drug syndicates think their challenge would dampen Duterte’s spirit in pursuing his campaign against illegal drugs, they are greatly mistaken.
In fact, it looks like Mr. Duterte is poised to strike back. He recently released a matrix naming seven active and former policemen involved in illegal drug trade. The PNP swiftly ordered the relief of the five active PNP officers and placed them in holding unit at Camp Crame.
The National Bureau of Investigation is also currently probing three individuals who figured in the controversial P6.8-billion shabu shipment, namely, former PDEA deputy director general for administration Ismael Fajardo, Bureau of Customs (BoC) intelligence officer Jimmy Guban and dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto.
Guban’s and Acierto’s link to illegal drug trade was established in the Senate investigation on the P6.8-billion shabu smuggling.
To address the supply side of the drug problem, Mr. Duterte’s fresh offensive against illegal drugs must also bear hard on BoC officials involved in the illegal drugs trade.
It appears that the bulk of shabu supply in the country is coursed through the BoC with the connivance of unscrupulous Customs officials and employees.
The BoC was embroiled in a scandal over the smuggling of about 605 kilos of shabu worth P6.4 billion last year. Similarly, the BoC was implicated anew in the shipment of magnetic lifters in July this year suspected of containing around P6.8-billion shabu.
According to a Social Weather Stations survey conducted 27 to 30 June, 78 percent of 1,200 respondents were satisfied with the government’s campaign against illegal drugs while 13 percent were not, yielding a “very good” net satisfaction rating of +65 percent.
Armed with the support of the majority of the Filipino people, there is no doubt President Duterte would strike back at the illegal drug syndicates and eliminate their cohorts in key government offices who helped circumvent the barriers of protection against drug smuggling.
When Mr. Duterte hits back, for sure he will hit ‘em hard.