Days 1 and 2: 12 drug suspects die, 700 surrender

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - In the first two days of the Duterte presidency, at least 12 suspected drug traffickers and users were killed while more than 700 drug users surrendered in the cities of Taguig, Pasay and San Juan.

Duterte promised during the campaign that he would have drug traffickers killed because they destroyed families and the country’s future.

From Thursday when he assumed office until yesterday morning, eight drug suspects were killed in Bulacan, two in Cavite, one in Manila and another in Ilocos.

The eight suspects in Bulacan were killed in anti-drug operations in the towns of San Rafael, Hagonoy, San Ildefonso, Norzagaray and Guiguinto and in Malolos City early yesterday, according to reports that reached Senior Supt. Romeo Caramat Jr., acting Bulacan police director. 

Three unidentified members of the Valdesotto drug syndicate were killed in an encounter with policemen at the boundary of Barangay Salapungan and Diliman 1 around 2 a.m. Friday. 

In Hagonoy, a wanted drug dealer identified as Lauro Reyes alias “Lupin” was also killed in a buy-bust operation at around 2 a.m. yesterday.  

In San Ildefonso, Oliver de la Cruz alias “Aga” was killed during a buy bust operation in Barangay Pala-pala at around 1 a.m.

In Barangay FVR in Norzagaray town, Keith del Pilar Gibson was killed when he fired at police operatives trying to implement a search warrant issued by Judge Celso Baguio of Gapan, Nueva Ecija at around 1:45 a.m. 

A drug dealer identified as “Anok” was killed in a buy-bust operation in Guiguinto town after selling P500 worth of shabu to undercover cop PO2 Jay-R Noprada. 

An unidentified suspected drug dealer was also killed in Malolos after he fired at policemen during a buy-bust operation along the Diversion Road in Barangay Mojon around 1:45 a.m.

In Cavite, drug suspect Ronnie Bacos, the “top 7” drug suspect in Mendez town, was killed in a running battle with police officers along Silang town at around 11:56 p.m. on Thursday, according to Cavite Police Director Senior Supt. Eliseo Cruz.

A drug suspect identified as “Kadio” was also killed in an encounter in front of San Gabriel 11 elementary school in GMA town at around 8:20 p.m. that day.

Three other drug suspects identified by the aliases Jake, Frank and Baldo were arrested during the gunfight. Police seized a caliber .38 revolver, caliber 9mm, caliber .22 pistol, one hand grenade and several drugs.

A top drug personality in Ilocos Norte was also slain on Thursday night.

Rolando Garvida, the “Top 6” drug suspect in Ilocos Norte, was gunned down in Barangay Lanao, Bangui town.

Police said Garvida, a resident of San Lorenzo barangay, attended a wake in nearby Barangay Lanao when two masked gunmen came close and fired. The gunmen fled aboard a motorcycle after making sure that Garvida was dead. 

Ilocos Norte police said Garvida was convicted of drug trafficking and was released from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

In Tondo, Manila an unidentified Chinese-looking man was found dead early yesterday. The body sustained a lone gunshot wound at the back of his left ear and a cardboard sign saying “Chinese drug lord ako” (I am a Chinese drug lord) was hung around his neck.

Probers recovered a spent shell from an unknown caliber at the crime scene. The victim was discovered at around 3 a.m. along IPB Road near the corner of Road 10 in Barangay 20. He was between 25 to 30 years old and about 5’2’’.

Hundreds of drug users surrender

Meanwhile, at least 362 drug users voluntarily surrendered yesterday to the Taguig City Police to get rehabilitated as the city police rolled out its “Oplan Tokhang.”

Operation Tokhang is a contraction of the Visayan words “Toktok” (knock) and “Hangyo” (request). 

Under the program, which was launched simultaneously nationwide yesterday, the police, local government units and barangay officials will visit the houses of drug users and will try to convince them to surrender for rehabilitation.

“The purpose is not to harm the residents of Taguig. They (drug users) were visited in their homes and they were requested to voluntarily surrender to avoid harm in the implementation of an intensive police operation,” said Sr. Insp. Arnel Amador, chief of the Taguig Police’s Police Community Relations office.

The 362 drug users who surrendered were accompanied by their respective barangay chairmen from the city’s 28 barangays.

Amador also said drug users who surrendered were made to sign a certification that they will no longer use illegal drugs and that they are willing to seek rehabilitation. The Taguig City Police will also be negotiating with the Taguig City government for the free drug rehabilitation of those who surrendered.

One of those who surrendered, 63-year-old Romeo Evangelista of Baragay Bagumbayan, said he decided to seek rehabilitation following the advice of Duterte.

“This is my chance to change. I am not afraid of what the President said because I really want to change,” he said. “I am ashamed. I did not try other vices. I don’t know why at this age I learned to use illegal drugs. I had prioritized it over the food for my family.”

In Pasay City, at least 300 drug users and pushers surrendered to Pasay City police.

Senior Supt. Joel Doria of Pasay police told The STAR that as of yesterday, persons from all walks of life went to the Pasay City Sports Complex to renounce their ties with the illegal drug trade. 

“We are expecting more drug users and pushers to come out,” he added.

Self-confessed drug addicts and pushers interviewed by The STAR said they want to come out because they fear they might end up in the streets dead with a cardboard tag “I am a pusher.” 

Bobby Leveriza admitted that he has been a drug user and pusher, but he decided to stop and began looking for decent job. He said by registering with the police, he will no longer be a target of police operations.

In San Juan City, at least 100 drug users also surrendered. They showed up at the local police station on Thursday and Friday, according to San Juan City Police chief Senior Supt. Victor Arevalo.

San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez said the mass surrender was initiated by the captains of barangays Corazon de Jesus, West Crame, Maytunas, Pasadena, Rivera, Progreso, San Perfecto, Salapan and Kabayanan.

She promised to train those who surrendered on alternative livelihood through the Skills and Livelihood Center of the city government.

‘Happy problem’: Facilities for drug users not ready

The Dangerous Drugs Board admitted yesterday that there is a need to address the readiness of facilities for the hundreds of drug users and pushers who surrendered, but the DDB considers it as a “happy problem.”

At present, there are 45 residential treatment and rehabilitation facilities in the country, 18 of which are government while 27 are privately owned. There are also one government and two private out-patient centers.

DDB chairman Felipe Rojas Jr. promised that the government would continue to work hard to provide appropriate services and interventions to the patients.

“Drug users coming to us and voluntarily submitting themselves to treatment and rehabilitation is a welcome change,” he added.

NBI’s national task force vs drugs

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will also form a national task force against illegal drugs.

In his first address yesterday as the new NBI director, Dante Gierran said that he would “create a national task force on illegal drugs... in deference to the program of President Duterte.”

When asked for details of the task force, however, he only said “when the commander is around, I will not talk.”

Meanwhile, bishops yesterday called on the people to cooperate with the vision of Duterte to put an end to drugs and criminality in the country.

“Let us support President Duterte in his fight against drugs and criminality. I would like to see our young normal and our society peaceful. I am tired of lawlessness and kidnapping. These must end and President Duterte has the political will to do it,” said Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad. 

“Luck knocks only once. Let us cooperate with him,” he added. 

Other bishops also heard Duterte’s speech during his inauguration and expressed their support for his plans.

“We support his good intensions and projects for the country. Let us give him a chance to fulfill his promises but within the parameters of the law,” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said.

“I am for national transformation. We support all good acts, projects regardless of where it is coming from. But we need true and lasting transformation, even our way of thinking,” Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said. 

Arguelles also said he would support Duterte’s Cabinet, especially Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.  – Ramon Efren Lazaro, Mike Frialde, Non Alquitran, Ghio Ong, Rey Galupo, Ric Sapnu, Ed Amoroso, Raymund Catindig, Artemio Dumlao, Evelyn Macairan

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