EDITORIAL - Nobody died

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Nobody died

Following a police inventory, the estimated volume and value of the confiscated shabu was brought down to 1,424 kilos worth P9.68 billion, from the original estimate of about 1,800 kilos valued at P13.3 billion. This means it was not the largest ever drug haul, and did not surpass the P11 billion worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride seized in Infanta, Quezon in March 2022.

Still, it was a major haul, which was intercepted at a police checkpoint in Alitagtag, Batangas last Monday morning. The illegal drugs were found in a van bound for Metro Manila from Nasugbu, Batangas. Police said they are eyeing the possibility that the drugs were smuggled from abroad through the Nasugbu coast.

And whether or not it was the largest ever illegal drug haul, President Marcos was correct in saying that the operation did not involve killing any suspect. The van driver, whose tense demeanor at the checkpoint in Barangay Pinagkrusan reportedly aroused suspicion and led to a police search of the vehicle, is alive and in the custody of the Batangas provincial police.

Policy differences in the anti-drug campaign have caused friction between the current and previous administrations. Rodrigo Duterte made the battle against prohibited drugs a top priority. He had campaigned on a promise of eradicating the drug scourge within six months. He set out to do this with a brutal crackdown that saw drug suspects killed in police operations. After six years in power and over 6,000 suspects killed, however, he himself admitted that the problem persisted and was more complicated than he thought.

The Marcos administration made it clear from the start that it was shifting gears and would significantly dial down the level of violence in fighting the illegal drug menace, with greater focus on rehabilitation and reducing demand. This has drawn criticism from officials of the previous administration led by Duterte himself.

With the drug haul in Alitagtag, Batangas, President Marcos stressed that no one was killed. It showed, he said, that the less violent approach to fighting the drug scourge was working. The next step is to intensify efforts to get the brains or leaders of drug trafficking operations.

Many police raids nationwide that result in major drug hauls fail to capture the principal operators. The Philippine National Police is still tracking down the source of the shabu seized in Alitagtag. The van driver claims he was unaware that he was transporting illegal drugs. If top traffickers can be caught and prosecuted, it would be an even more impressive feat for the current administration.

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