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Duty and compassion in the war on drugs

/ 05:05 AM September 27, 2020

Law enforcement was my career, and my mother unit was the anti-narcotics section. After my retirement, I kept tabs of the current crime situation and the criminal justice system in the country. It is of common knowledge that among the more serious concerns today are the so-called extrajudicial killings related to the government’s war on drugs. This has grown to such proportions as to merit international attention.

Going back in time when we were engaged in the campaign against illegal drugs, I recall that it was truly a difficult one, calling for much patience and skill. Calculated care had to be undertaken since the targets were not entirely evil, for hapless victims were likely to suffer as collateral damage. Many of the addicts were innocent idle boys belonging to impoverished families, or children of broken homes. They were the perfect and easy prey for the clever and callous drug distributors. Once hooked on drugs, they themselves were compelled to “push” to sustain their addiction.

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These are the so-called street-side pushers. They don’t usually fight back. This was why the National Bureau of Investigation maintained a rehabilitation center in cool Tagaytay City, where addicts and addict-pushers were given a second chance to reform. Though not 100-percent effective, it had somehow given a good number of them a new lease on life.

To annihilate the street-side pushers not only would spoil the project, it would actually also cut off the line that should lead to the bigger, and eventually the biggest, source of drugs.

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Our team operated not only in the NCR; we also traveled nationwide where we had regional offices. We raided marijuana plantations in the provinces as far as Zambales and the Cordilleras. It was in Cavite where we paid dearly for the loss of two of our agents.

Heroin was the bigger problem in those days. It marked my baptism in the war against drugs as a new agent. The daughter of a high-ranking government official got addicted. After a conference with the NBI director, the well-off father provided her daughter with a new car, complete with a driver. And I was that driver!

In authentic driver’s attire, I drove her, together with her gangmates. One dark, rainy night, as they shivered cold, unable to get their heroin supply for the day, I was asked where to buy drugs. I assured them I could bring them to the place. So I drove them to the Mercury Drug store in front of the Quiapo Catholic Church. Arriving there, my “boss” slapped the back of my head hard, angrily shouting, “You, stupid driver.” Not long thereafter, we busted one main source of heroin in an “eskinita” somewhere in Paco, Manila.

During the investigation, she, my “boss,” stared at me fiercely like she wanted to melt me down. She was admitted into a private hospital, was rehabilitated, and later became a radio announcer.

Shortly before martial law was declared, we busted the heroin syndicate in the Cagayan Valley region, which was based in Santiago, Isabela. We worked on this project for three weeks in coordination with our agents based in Ilagan, Isabela.

Then in 1973, upon the request of the head of intelligence unit of the American Naval Base in Subic, Zambales, we ran an operation to determine and get the source of the mushrooming of heroin in the American bases in Subic and in Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga.

It took us two months of painstaking work before we finally identified, and later apprehended, the culprits, who were two brothers, sons of a government prosecutor. The quantity of the heroin seized from them matched the grade of the heroin confiscated from the laboratory of Lim Seng, the chemist who had been earlier publicly executed by the Marcos regime.

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Through the years and in missions such as these, I can say with certainty and in utmost humility THAT WE DID NOT KILL A SINGLE STREET-SIDE PUSHER.

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Gerry T. Maglaya is a graduate of journalism from the University of Santo Tomas. He received his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the East and is a member of the Philippine Bar. For the last 30 years, he held various positions in the national government, at the National Housing Authority, National Bureau of Investigation, Land Transportation Office, and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Upon retirement from government service, he served as the president of Wesleyan University of the Philippines. He is currently retired from work, happily married to his wife of 60 years, and blessed with 5 children and 13 grandchildren.

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TAGS: Commentary, drug war, drug war killings, EJKs, Gerry T. Malaya, Illegal drugs
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