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Editorial

Royal mess

/ 04:34 AM October 02, 2019

One would expect that the Duterte administration, which has built itself up as a merciless crusader against the scourge of illegal drugs, would stop at nothing to put alleged “drug queen” Guia Gomez Castro behind bars.

It has all the means to do so, after all. Castro had three standing warrants of arrest from different courts, one issued by a Quezon City court over a violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act dating back to 2002.

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The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) also supposedly knew that her network was so wide and powerful that she had been regularly selling two to three kilograms, or P13.6 million worth, of the dreaded “shabu” or crystal meth in two Manila streets alone every week.

That meant she had already earned at least P1 billion since she entered the illegal drug trade in the early 2000s, said PDEA chief Aaron Aquino — money that allowed her to put corrupt policemen or “ninja cops” on her payroll, even give them brand – new sport utility vehicles as a reward for their protection.

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But if she’s been in business for these many years and has been in law enforcement authorities’ sights for a good part of that period, why has her name and alleged record surfaced only now? Why has there been no legal action against her operation, not even the enforcement of any of the three warrants against her?

Police now claim they have been after the “drug queen of Manila” since 2015. And yet, on Sept. 21, Castro — who even managed to run, and win, as village chief of Barangay 484 Zone 48 in Sampaloc, Manila — was able to slip away, first flying to Bangkok, and now she is said to be somewhere in the United States.

She’s well within her rights to travel, too, since, as the Bureau of Immigration said, there is no “derogatory record” that would have flagged her at the immigration counters.

That the “very slippery” Castro was able to operate freely and brazenly despite her identity and operations said to have been an “open secret” in intelligence circles testifies to the corruption that hounds the very institutions at the front lines of the government’s war against illegal drugs.

The rot spreads all the way to the top ranks, according to Aquino and former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Benjamin Magalong.

Magalong revealed before the Senate the odious scheme he called “agaw bato” — referring to the street name of shabu — that involves rogue police officers seizing part of their illegal drug haul and keeping it for themselves, to be sold later on in partnership with convicted drug lords detained in New Bilibid Prison. This jibed with Aquino’s earlier testimony on the “rampant” practice of “recycling” seized drugs.

On the other end of that criminal enterprise are alleged street dealers, like Castro, whose business thrived in a symbiotic relationship with police corruption. Castro reportedly enjoyed the protection of 16 ninja cops, of which nine are already dead, one is detained on drug charges and the rest either retired, dismissed or absent without leave. Castro was allegedly connected to this network via her brother, a dismissed patrolman.

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Incredibly, both PDEA and the National Bureau of Investigation claim they had tried time and again to operate against Castro, but the woman supposedly always managed to evade arrest due to her zealous police protectors. And, “She’s so powerful that she knows a lot of politicians,” said Aquino.

Apparently, this time, Castro has become too radioactive, because various agencies are now falling all over themselves trying to appear driven by a rediscovered zeal to go after her. The PDEA, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the PNP and the NBI have formed a “quad-intel force” to pursue not only Castro, but also so-called “high-priority” cases involving ninja cops and “narcos in uniform.”

Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, after admitting “neglect” in the failure to seize Castro, then made the pathetic dare for their target to “surface and surrender” and “clear her name.”

But whose job is it in the first place to substantiate such charges, produce evidence and charge Castro in court if warranted?

The Department of Justice has also belatedly issued an immigration lookout bulletin order against Castro, and is moving to cancel her passport. Eleazar said that with the standing warrants against her, the police would exhaust “all legal remedies” to bring Castro back to the Philippines and put her behind bars.

What a sham. The stinky, farcical shambles over the case of the so-called “drug queen” only shows up, yet again, the vaunted drug war for what it is — a royal mess.

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TAGS: Aaron Aquino, Benjamin Magalong, CIDG, drug queen, drug war, Guia Gomez Castro, Inquirer editorial, ninja cops, PDEA, Rodrigo Duterte
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