EDITORIAL - Drug recycling, again

The Philippine Star

Many law enforcers have been arrested on drug charges. This case, however, is notable for the brazenness of the alleged perpetrators. Last Tuesday, the National Capital Region Police Office conducted a drug sting – right in the southern district office of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Taguig. And the principal suspect turned out to be no other than the PDEA district officer himself, Enrique Lucero.

Arrested together with Lucero were two other PDEA agents, Anthony Vic Alabastro and Jaireh Llaguno along with their driver, Mark Warren Mallo. The NCRPO, assisted by the PDEA, reported seizing 1.35 kilos of shabu valued at P9.1 million, four guns and a digital weighing scale. Video footage showed NCRPO raiders kicking the door to the PDEA office as they barged in and conducted the raid.

By law, the PDEA is the lead agency in the campaign against illegal drugs. NCRPO officers said they were tipped off that the suspects were “recycling” for street sale illegal drugs seized by the PDEA. A similar “drug recycling” story involving 12 police officers in Pampanga in 2013 brought down their commander at the time, Oscar Albayalde, as chief of the Philippine National Police.

Drug money is big money, and its lure can be irresistible to those who believe they can get away with drug trafficking. PNP chief-turned-senator Ronald dela Rosa has said he has one regret in carrying out Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs: there was no thorough cleansing of the PNP before the hounds of Tokhang and Double Barrel were unleashed.

As the raid on the PDEA office indicated, the case involving the so-called “ninja cops” in Pampanga apparently did not put an end to the recycling of seized drugs. A positive aspect of the story is that the criminal activity in the PDEA office was unearthed and the raid carried out. In a statement, the PNP and PDEA vowed closer cooperation in weeding their ranks of scalawags.

Alongside the housecleaning, there should be tighter controls in the safekeeping of confiscated illegal drugs. The banned substances are supposed to be destroyed, but are kept ostensibly because they are needed as evidence in prosecuting drug cases.

Before the pandemic lockdowns, PDEA officials had said the agency’s storage area for confiscated drugs would be placed under video surveillance around the clock to prevent pilferage and recycling. The problem is when the officers tasked to ensure that the surveillance system is in place are the ones engaged in selling the seized drugs.

A more secure storage facility may have to be found for all illegal drugs confiscated by both the PNP and PDEA, if only to deliver their members from temptation. Too many anti-narcotics officers have shown that when opportunity knocks for making big money illegally, they grab it.



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