A ‘failed’ state in the hands of narco politicians
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2019 - 12:00am

There is something sinister, if not suspicious, in the series of illegal cocaine shipments finding their way into unguarded coastlines and waters of the country from the north down to southern Philippines. The latest haul involved at least 36 brick-sized pouches reportedly containing cocaine found floating off the waters of Cargo town in Davao Oriental last Sunday.

Some of the cocaine bricks got tangled in the fishing net of two Filipino fishermen in Barangay Santiago while the rest of the packed cocaine have been washed ashore. Police authorities placed the street value at about P200 million for the 36 cocaine bricks. Laboratory tests confirmed the contents were high-grade cocaine.

Around 48.2 kilos of cocaine were earlier recovered in Barangay Poblacion, Dinagat while some 40 kilos were retrieved off the coast of Barangay Pacifico, Siargao. Prior to this, there were also other dozens of similar cocaine bricks recovered days apart in Surigao Del Sur, Camarines Norte and Quezon provinces.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino believes the latest discoveries of cocaine bricks floating in high seas and washed ashore in various parts of the country could all be related with each other. The PDEA chief speculated the international drug syndicates were unloading these illegal drug shipments to their local cohorts in our country.

The PDEA sent samples of the cocaine recovered in Matnog to the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for testing. From the initial assessment of the PDEA, Aquino noted, the “Golden Triangle“syndicate based in China and Hong Kong could be the destination of these cocaine shipments. Colombian and Mexican drug cartels are being eyed as possible sources of the cocaine bricks recovered.

The PDEA chief disclosed the latest recovered cocaine blocks were apparently dumped long ago as indicated by shells that have attached already to it. Apparently, he surmised, these cocaine blocks were being refloated for retrieval by their drug contacts here.

If we base it from the pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte, cocaine is not the choice of narcotic substance used by many addicts in the Philippines. High-grade cocaine comes from coca or poppy leaves that are grown in South America. The plant is grown as a cash crop in Argentine Northwest, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, although its cultivation is unlawful. Coca leaf is the raw material for the manufacture of the drug cocaine, and processed into powerful stimulant and anesthetic. Thus, cocaine is more expensive.

A cheaper version of cocaine is shabu. That’s why shabu is called as “poor man’s coke.”

Methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu is in the form of crystals. Thus, it is called as crystal meth, or d-meth, or ice. It also comes as a powder that is usually sniffed, injected, or smoked. As graphically described by President Duterte, shabu is nothing but a concoction that includes car battery fluid and formalin that can damage the human brain.

“Shabu is the commodity of the poor...It’s easy to cook. The rich use either cocaine or heroin,” President Duterte cited anew last Monday in his extemporaneous remarks before the League of Barangays in Pasay City. Obviously alluding to the latest series of recovered cocaine shipments, the President warned the notorious Colombian drug cartel called “Medellin” has already established beachhead right in the porous Philippine water borders and right into our country’s shores.

Medellin is the hometown of slain Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Thus, Escobar’s deadly Medellin drug cartel was named after the second biggest city of this Latin-American country. With the US as its primary market for cocaine trade, DEA sought cooperation of the Colombian government to break up the Medellin drug cartel.

Aided by technology, President Duterte noted with concern these drug cartels use global positioning system (GPS) to track down their cocaine shipments and to elude Philippine law enforcement authorities.

Perhaps, the visit today in Manila of US State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo who once served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency could be an opportunity for our Philippine government officials to raise the Colombia drug menace as common area of concern.

While cocaine may not be the drug of choice of Filipino addicts, these cocaine shipments into Philippine waters and shores are nothing to sneeze at, pardon the pun.

Local law enforcement authorities would like to believe the cocaine bricks and pouches were merely being dropped off in the Philippines as a “transshipment point” of the international illegal drug trade. From here, these are being repacked and shipped to nearby countries such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

What befuddles perhaps many is the seeming boldness by which these foreign drug traffickers carry out their nefarious trade. The much reported zero tolerance policy of President Duterte against illegal drugs and the many alleged extrajudicial killings of suspected drug traffickers and addicts apparently are not enough to deter them from plying their illegal drugs trade here.

In the early days of his assumption into office at Malacañang, President Duterte was already talking about this growing threat of the technology-driven international drug trade syndicates engaged in business with our own corrupt police and government officials and politicians, narco-pols for short.

Now nearing his third year in office by June this year, the former Davao City Mayor lamented the government’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs has not broken the back yet of this menace that has grown to become a national security problem. Proof of which, he rued, are the narco pols who remain at large.

The 73-year-old Chief Executive fears he might leave behind a “failed” state in the hands of narco pols in our country. The last three years in office, President Duterte thus vowed, would be the “most dangerous” time for people involved in the illegal drugs trade.

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