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Editorial

Highs and lows

/ 08:15 PM March 10, 2012

It was happening right under everyone’s nose. In January alone, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) raided not one but three drug dens in the posh Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City. The drug dens were manned by Chinese nationals and were extremely busy producing methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as “shabu.” It is hard to imagine that massive amounts of the dangerous drug were being produced in the ritzy neighborhood of designer homes and expansive, manicured lawns. “The neighborhood had no idea that something was going on,” said Evangeline Almenario, PDEA’s public information chief. “There were no signs that something like that was happening inside.”

What the PDEA agents found in the first lab, located in a house belonging to the prominent Madrigal family but leased by Chinese nationals for a little over a quarter of a million pesos per month, showed just how large-scale the operation had become. According to PDEA, the equipment found could produce a minimum of 10 kilograms of shabu per cycle, with the drug’s street value placed at P50 million for 10 kilograms, or P5,000 per gram. In all, the agents carted away four truckloads of drug-related paraphernalia from the house. The two other drug labs were “medium-scale” enterprises.

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That the drug makers managed to conduct their activities unbeknownst to their neighbors and to establish operations in exclusive villages such as Ayala Alabang have allowed them a good degree of anonymity. But now PDEA is starting to look at similar sites in other exclusive villages. “We are monitoring other places like this,” Almenario said.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous of the dangerous drugs because of its relative ease of production, shabu has become a terrible part of everyday Filipino life. Now that part is growing larger, like a malignant tumor.

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In its 2011 report, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) identified the Philippines as one of the countries in Southeast Asia where drug trafficking activity has increased. An independent monitoring and implementing body of the United Nations’ drug control protocols, the INCB said the uptick in drug movement in Southeast Asia and East Asia was a result of West African and Iranian criminal syndicates peddling shabu as well as heroin and cocaine.

This means that more and more Filipinos are not only getting hooked on shabu but also getting involved in moving the illegal drug. The INCB noted that these international syndicates tended to recruit drug couriers from impoverished countries such as Pakistan and the Philippines. This is why many poor Filipinos, whether knowingly or unknowingly, become drug mules and, when caught, must pay a tragic price. In 2011 alone, four Filipinos were executed in China after being convicted of drug trafficking. More than 200 Filipinos remain incarcerated in that country, awaiting their ultimate fate.

Whether the authorities want to admit it or not, the Philippines has now become a busy part of the global trade in illegal drugs, with our own citizens being utilized as couriers and the drugs being manufactured in bulk on our soil. This observation was further bolstered by the recent arrest of a Kenyan woman at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport who was attempting to smuggle P45 million worth of shabu into the country from the United Arab Emirates. It is because of instances like this that the INCB is advising the countries on its list “to devise appropriate and effective strategies to address the threats posed by trafficking in and abuse of methamphetamine.”

It is time for the local drug authorities to make a stand and stop the continued impunity with which these syndicates operate in our territory. Not only must our airport security and customs inspections be enhanced, but a concerted effort must also be made to shut down the many drug labs hiding in plain sight—and to charge the arrested drug traffickers to the fullest extent of the law. After all, the Philippines does not lack for laws that punish those who produce and peddle drugs. It is a matter of vigilantly implementing those same laws.

Whether they buy and imbibe shabu here or are used as carriers by drug syndicates, Filipinos are being placed in clear and present danger at a level never seen before. At this low point, we owe it to them and to our children to cut down those getting high on the destruction of Filipino lives.

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TAGS: editorial, Illegal drugs, opinion, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), shabu
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