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P1.13B shabu off the streets

John Henry Dodson



The Duterte administration scored big anew in its campaign against illegal drugs as two buy-bust operations yesterday at a mall and a posh village in Muntinlupa City led to the arrest of four suspected Chinese syndicate members and the seizure of 166 kilos of shabu worth P1.13 billion.

A team from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) seized in the first operation conducted at the parking lot of Festival Mall 43.5 kilos of shabu, otherwise known as “poor man’s cocaine,” with a street value of P295 million.

Arrested in that operation at about 5 p.m. were three Chinese nationals, namely, Pascual Emmanuel, Go Kei-kei and Kian Kok Chua, all of whom PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said could be members of the Golden Triangle drug syndicate.

PDEA and PNP operatives then crossed the South Luzon Expressway into the exclusive Ayala Alabang Village and therein bought shabu from a 19-year-old Chinese male, Yi Wu.

The second buy-bust operation at 175 Apitong Street yielded a total of 123 kilos of shabu worth P836 million, bringing the total haul of the crack PDEA-PNP team to 166 kilos of shabu that could fetch as much as P1.13 billion retail.

The suspects, thought to be from mainland China, were merely renting the house in the gated village, according to sources in the community.

In a hastily called press conference, Aquino said the packaging of the shabu, intended to make them appear like tea bags, showed they came from the Golden Triangle drug syndicate.

“It’s good we were able to crack this group again,” Aquino said, adding the successful operations were the fruits of a three-month long surveillance on the movements of the syndicate members.

“Nobody wants to talk among them,” added the PDEA chief, who said they are investigating if the suspects have links with the Chinese nationals involved in big-time drug busts this year.

The Golden Triangle group supplies drugs to countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, Aquino said. The shabu in their green packaging are placed inside biscuit cans, he said.

“They’re ready for shipping tonight or early tomorrow,” Aquino said.

Last February, PDEA agents seized 274 kilos of shabu worth P1.9 billion in Tanza, Cavite after killing in a shootout syndicate members Vincent Lim and Hong Li We in the warehouse where the drugs were being readied for packaging.

At the time, PDEA said the group’s modus had shifted to “shipside smuggling” which entailed dropping the drugs from cargo ships to be picked up by smaller vessels.

The drugs seized in Tanza were still wet and were suspected of being fished from waters off Ilocos Norte.

The shift to shipside smuggling came about following the brouhaha over billions of pesos worth of shabu slipping past Bureau of Customs scrutiny.