P13.3 billion shabu seized in Batangas

Ed Amoroso, Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
P13.3 billion shabu seized in Batangas
Officers place the two tons of shabu under a shed before presentation to the public yesterday.
Ed Amoroso

MANILA, Philippines — Shabu with an estimated street value of P13.3 billion was seized at a police checkpoint in Alitagtag, Batangas yesterday morning.

The illegal drugs, weighing around two tons or 2,000 kilos, were loaded in a passenger van that was pulled over by police in Barangay Pinagkurusan.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos said this could be the last major drug haul in the country.

Abalos said the recovery of such a large amount of shabu is proof that the government’s campaign against illegal drugs is on the right track.

He said the van driver was arrested, placed under investigation and would be charged with violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

Abalos did not identify the van driver and refused to answer queries from journalists who were present during a press briefing in Alitagtag. He explained that follow-up operations have yet to be conducted.

“We cannot give you any information as of this time. We requested the presence of the media to show that this (shabu haul) is intact,” he said.

But probers identified the van driver as Ajalon Michael Zarate, 47, of Barangay Masagana, Quezon City.

Abalos was joined in the press conference by Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rommel Francisco Marbil, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency deputy director general Renato Gumban, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and Calabarzon police director Paul Kenneth Lucas.

Alitagtag police chief Capt. Luis de Luna Jr. said that police officers became suspicious when Zarate appeared to be uneasy when asked for his driver’s license.

He said the back of Zarate’s vehicle was covered with a sack.

When Zarate removed the cover, police discovered sacks and large plastic bags said to contain shabu.

Forensics officers examined the substance at the site, which turned out to be shabu.

The van was reportedly headed to Lipa City from Santa Teresita town.

Authorities have yet to complete the inventory of the illegal drugs as of yesterday afternoon.

Abalos promoted De Luna to the rank of major for the anti-illegal drug operation, and lauded the police official for his bravery.

“You did not allow yourself to be tempted, you did not keep this, you did not take something, the drug was intact,” Abalos told De Luna.

Abalos ordered the immediate destruction of the drugs.

He expressed confidence that the country’s war against illegal drugs can be won through effective policing and intelligence gathering along with public support, without resorting to violence and bloodbath.

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