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Shabu shipment via courier service

“If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet.” Keith Richards

By Alex P. Vidal

We were not surprised by the reported seizure of some P7-million worth of shabu (methamphetamine chloride) stuffed inside 20 pairs of shoes and sandals and shipped via LBC from Luzon to Bacolod last June 9.

The amount of the recovered illegal substances shows a big group is behind the deal, and it must have crippled their operations for this school opening.

If it is about a kilo, the target market could be not only in Bacolod City, but also in other component cities and municipalities in Negros Occidental. If the P7-million worth of shabu was not intercepted, God knows how much damage it would have inflicted on the youths in Negros and how many crimes would it have caused.

This trick by some drug traffickers of using private courier services is not new. We have heard of similar incidents in the past not only in Western Visayas, but also in Metro Manila.

Drugs were also kept inside toys, books, cloths, frames, etcetera. The system, for a while, has worked wonders for the syndicates as some private courier services don’t have special machine detectors to intercept illegal substances hidden in the declared stuffs.

DOOR-TO-DOOR

Drug transactions are also sometimes done via door-to-door; meaning the consignees get the illegal substance directly from the senders through private courier services that are not supposed to be detected by police authorities.

But the arrest of “drug distributor” (that’s what the PDEA calls the suspect) Edgardo Justo, 36, also known as Ray Roman of Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Murcia happened because, sources said, someone privy to the deal had tipped off the PDEA, which was still confirming reports that the syndicate also used other private service couriers in the past.

The rat could be part of the well-entrenched syndicate operating in Region 6 and he must now be working with the PDEA.

Justo was cornered not after receiving the sandals and shoes, but during the buy bust operation that followed later. This means that door-to-door shipment of illegal drugs could have been progressing also in other parts of the country even before Justo was busted.

The shabu bust, the biggest in Western Visayas in recent years, was traced to have originated in Muntinlupa’s New Bilibid Prison, police said.  

DRUG LORDS

If the report is true, this would confirm fears that some of the country’s most notorious drug lords continue to operate even if they are now detained in “Munti”.

And these transactions would not materialize without the backing of some influential characters in police and military. It was reported most recently that these detained drug lords live like kings and untouchables, and they receive special treatment from jail authorities. They could fake sickness and go to hospitals and stay there for an extended period, and hire high-profile prostitutes while in confinement.

It is common knowledge that some of the most active drug lords in Western Visayas also have links with their cohorts in “Munti”. They were able to establish contacts and forge camaraderie with their partners who are now behind bars because they were themselves former inmates in “Munti.”

PDEA Regional Director Paul Ledesma and his men were still trying to extract more information from Justo in a hope to trace his other accomplices.

We wish Director Ledesma luck. 

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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Did Narcom commit a mea culpa in Concepcion, Iloilo ‘coca’ plant?

“Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money.”

ROBIN WILLIAMS

By Alex P. Vidal

Twenty five years ago, the regional Narcotics Command (Narcom) headed by Capt. Eduardo Bianzon uprooted and burned what they believed to be some 1,000 coca plants in Agho island, located off the coasts of Concepcion, Iloilo and allegedly broke open the mini-laboratory reportedly owned by Australian couple Tom and Terry Kurt.
Bianzon described the mini-laboratory as “a complete factory for cocaine” after the raid on August 25, 1988.
According to a report by then Daily Times editor Manuel P. Mejorada, the Kurt couple “have been gone for almost two years now. Perhaps they were alarmed when the operations of the monkey farm in San Rafael, Iloilo owned by Jack Vacek was busted and packed their things for other destinations.”
Mejorada was one of the only two Iloilo journalists allowed by the Narcom (now Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency) to board one of the choppers that flew to Agho island from the Iloilo airport in Mandurriao district on August 19, 1988. The other one was Bombo Radyo’s Rodel Fullon Agado, who is now Iloilo City councilor.

RETREAT

Mejorada described the island as “one of those tropical hideaways which provide an ideal retreat for the busy city dweller. Wedged between two bigger islands, Agho is a tiny dot from the air, surrounded by blue, pristine waters. The place is perfect for a weekend of swimming, snorkeling, sailing and other water sports.”
To recap the event that transpired in Agho island, this was how Mejorada narrated the story in the August 20, 1988 issue of the Daily Times: “That–the picture of sea-loving tourists here to enjoy the country’s scenic spots–appears to be the cover conceived by the couple Tom and Terry Kurt when they first came to the island way back in 1981.
“The Kurts told the local folk they were looking for a place where they could commune with nature, to be far away from the hectic life in the cities.
“Thus, nobody suspected that the couple were up to something when they began building a cottage on a hill which offered a vantage point over the entire area. They hired local laborer and paid well. Leonard Villaris, 55, told the Daily Times that he worked on the island for three months. ‘I helped Kurt build his cottage,’ he said.

FREE

“Fishermen from neighboring islands were also free to cast their nets in the waters surrounding the island. Restituto Ciriaco, 34, recalls that he supplied the couple with a daily supply of shrimps and fish. ‘They were kind to me,’ he said. ‘In fact, Mrs. Kurt even volunteered to teach the women in the nearby islands special skills like embroidery.’
“Things started to change, however, just when Kurt finished the construction of a small building and landed laboratory equipment in 1981. He had already installed a generator to provide electricity for the cottage and the other buildings. Soon a ‘no trespassing’ sign was put up. Doberman guard dogs suddenly turned up at the island to discourage unwanted visitors from straying into the area. To enforce this warning, an armed guard kept a sharp eye for intruders on a 24-hour basis. Visitors had to ring a bell at the dock area and wait for the ‘household’ to allow them into the island.
“‘I became suspicious at once,’ Barangay Captain Magno Bordan said. ‘The hospitable Kurts suddenly declared the island off-limits for no apparent reason.’ Bordan said that even fishermen who tried to fish in the waters near the island were shooed away. ‘Nobody really knew what was going on in the island from that time on,’ Bordan said.
“Unknown to the native islanders, Kurt had found that the soil conditions on the island was ideal for growing the coca plant. He brought in coca seedlings and planted these on a hilly portion of the island just below the cottage. To camouflage the coca plants, he inter-planted them with a local plant which is very similar in appearance.

WORK

“‘Absolutely nobody from the neighboring islands were allowed to work there anymore,’ Bordan said. ‘The laborers came all the way from Cebu.’ Apparently, Kurt didn’t want the local residents to poke their nose around and stumble into his illicit operations. By keeping them out, he was assured that nobody was going to disturb him for a while.
“That continued for the next five years. The people from the neighboring islands were kept in the dark as to what was going on during all that time. It was only last week when agents from the Narcotics Command stormed the island armed with a search warrant, that they came to know about the tale of the intrigue and mystery that filled the island’s recent history.
“‘It’s amazing how they were able to escape notice this long,’ Bianzon said, who credits the vigilance of local officials like Concepcion mayor Betsie Salcedo, Governor Simplicio Grino and the provincial commander, Lt. Col. Jesus Almaden Jr. for the successful operation. Bianzon found evidence that the Agho plantation is linked to the San Rafael monkey farm; the guard on the island is the same person who worked as security man for Vacek when his farm was raided two years ago.”

‘NO CONFIRMATION’

A week after the raid, however, Mayor Salcedo belied the claims of the Narcom. The Philippine News Agency (PNA) quoted Salcedo as saying that “there was no official confirmation of reports that the wild plants discovered in Agho island are really coca plants.”
The plants uprooted and burned by Bianzon and his men were the “opathalo” plants which are used as firewood by island residents.
Salcedo’s view was shared by then US Consul Franklin Huddle Jr. who said that there was really no laboratory test on the wild plants taken from the small island to confirm if it is really the coca plants, reported the PNA.
Huddle reportedly based his observation “on media reports” about the discovery. Bianzon earlier reported that the raid on Agho island was conducted after a laboratory test made on samples taken from the place positively confirmed that these were wild coca plants.

FARM

A similar raid conducted on another farm in San Rafael a few days after the Agho island discovery also resulted in the seizure of several coca plants which Australian and U.S. drug agents confirmed to be the “real” thing, according to Bianzon.
The PNA said Salcedo herself was present when Brig. Gen. Pantaleon Dumlao and other military officials visited the island to destroy the wild coca plants uprooted there.
The PNA reported that “Bianzon was not immediately available to comment on these contradictory observations aired by Mayor Salcedo and the American diplomat.”

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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PDEA should put to shame drug lords, not village chiefs

“Let me see if I’ve got this Santa business straight. You say he wears a beard, has no discernible source of income and flies to cities all over the world under cover of darkness? You sure this guy isn’t laundering illegal drug money?” TOM ARMSTRONG

 

By Alex P. Vidal

We have a situation where it’s impossible to win against drug syndicates today. But it’s still possible to beat them tomorrow. But not soon.
Although some of them have already been identified — their addresses and types of businesses put up as fronts for their illegal trade — the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is still adamant to name who these drug lords are.
But PDEA-6 regional director Paul Ledesma thinks “shaming” the punong barangay or village chiefs who refuse to cooperate with PDEA and seriously activate their Barangay anti-drug abuse councils (BADACs) will minimize if not paralyze the operations of drug syndicates.
We don’t think this strategy will snowball. No village chief will be intimidated by a threat of a public censure from PDEA, or any state agency that deals with narcotics problem in the country for that matter.

MENTIONED

Most village chiefs don’t give a hoot if their names are mentioned in the air lanes or published in the newspapers as “punishment” for failure to convene their BADACs. They can always offer as convenient excuse that their hands are full and they also need to attend to other matters, not just about illegal drugs.
For them, this kind of negligence is an intra-barangay issue, not a major offense; a simple lapse that can always be remedied and corrected.
Putting village chiefs to “shame” does not make them outright villains in the eyes of their constituents. They won’t tremble in their shirts and grab their walkie-talkies to indiscriminately report to police the presence of drug traffickers just for compliance.
Village chiefs are PDEA’s partners in crime, not kindergarten pupils who need to be given the dressing down for mischievous acts. Two heads — PDEA plus village chiefs — are always better than one. In the battle against illegal drugs, they also risk their lives and the safety of their families.

ASSURANCE

BADAC isn’t an assurance that drug traffickers will be rounded up and wiped out in quick succession. Many dealers of shabu and other illegal substance are also barangay officials and, perhaps, members of BADAC. Drug syndicates have mushroomed in barangays and have maintained a Robin Hood-pauper type relationship with some residents who sometimes act as moles and runners.
What the PDEA should do is focus its canon on the drug lords themselves. In a punitive measure, PDEA should grab the bulls by the horns and deal with the drug lords directly, not threaten with shame campaign the village chiefs.
If PDEA thinks “shaming” the drug lords can help, they must have the guts to name them in public. A tit for a tat since drug lords have already shamed and scandalized PDEA. By having successfully penetrated many slum areas and subdivisions; and by bribing barangay officials, cops and even the media, these drug lords think they now have the upper hand in the psychological warfare vis-a-vis the PDEA.

ORIENTATION

We laud the PDEA, City Hall, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for holding the Barangay Drug Clearing Operation Orientation Seminar last February 5 in Iloilo City attended by 174 village chiefs (only six were absent).
Some village leaders involved in drug trafficking who were present may have tipped off their partners in illegal drug trade about the PDEA’s strategy.
“Clearing operation”, as a theme of the orientation, was good in objectives and battlecry. Once the barangay is cleared of the presence of drug traffickers, there is nothing to be sold anymore. If there are no sellers, there will be no buyers and users.
A drug-free barangay is a dream of everyone who wants peace, harmony and tranquility in his community.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Drug syndicates putting PDEA to shame

“Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money.” ROBIN WILLIAMS

By Alex P. Vidal

It appears that the drug syndicates are the ones putting the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to shame, not the other way around.
PDEA can’t nail down a drug lord. Small fries yes, but not big fishes. Not in this generation where trafficking of prohibited substance has become high level with the aid of technology and gargantuan bribe money.
Tentacles of drug syndicates have reached alarming heights and lengths that they can afford to elect senators and even presidents. It happened in Central America, it can happen in Asia. God forbid.
With or without the much-touted “shame campaign” (or PDEA regional director Paul Ledesma’s threat to reveal the names of village chiefs who give their barangay anti-drug abuse councils or BADACs cold shoulder treatment), drug syndicates have become bold and unstoppable.

CAPTURED

The drug lords here believe they have captured the metropolis and it’s only a matter of time before they will transform public edifices into dance floors and venues of their bacchanalia. Not even the Philippine National Police (PNP) can send shivers down the spines of these drug lords. If they can’t lick them, join them.
They have sent a strong signal when they were able to not only successfully penetrate the barangays, they also were able to ensure the win of their own village chiefs and councilmen in the most recent barangay elections.
Drug syndicates have become powerful Goliaths that it is almost impossible for PDEA or any state agency for that matter to slay those behemoths with one sling.

MAJORITY

PDEA may have successfully lured majority of the village chiefs to attend the Barangay Drug Clearing Operation Orientation Seminar last February 5 in Iloilo City (only six of the village chiefs in 180 barangays were absent), but shabu and other illegal drugs continue to proliferate in barangays Tanza-Esperanza, Rizal Pala-Pala, Monica, Bakhaw, North Baluarte, Calumpang, Calaparan, San Jose, Desamparados, among other drugs “hot spots” in Iloilo City.
We are only talking here of Iloilo City. We all know that drug syndicates are also very much active in the province and in other cities and provinces in Western Visayas, including Boracay.
Some of those who attended the PDEA seminar backed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and City Hall, were themselves directly involved if not in cahoots with drug lords in the trafficking of illegal drugs. And Director Ledesma knows who they are.

DEDICATION

Ledesma, with all his sincerity and dedication, is a square peg in a round hole. He may be the bravest and most honest anti-drug czar in the region, but his agency is ill-equipped and under-manned to match the machinery and tactics of drug syndicates. Even children and women sell drugs and it’s not easy to separate the chaffs from the grains in this battlefield.
We fear that instead of producing “hopes of the fatherland” like what Jose Rizal had said, we are producing a generation of drug addicts, walking dead or “zombies”, home wreckers, criminals and potential terrorists.
A drug addict fears no law. Once high on drugs, he is not afraid to commit a crime. He will destroy properties. He will rape women and children. He will terrorize. He will kill. And he doesn’t feel any remorse.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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