APART from some rogue politicians, some celebrities and members of the tri-media involved in illegal drug activities are now considered as “high-value targets” of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the head of the country’s lead anti-narcotics unit said.
PDEA chair Director General Aaron N. Aquino refused to name names but said they would now consider radio, television, online media organizations or newspaper personalities as HVTs should their names appear in an ongoing drug investigation.
Officials privy to the ongoing investigation said that the media personalities are known to be getting money from drug syndicates. “One who receives drug money from syndicates especially big-time drug rings is perceived as a drug protector and will be investigated,” said one official on condition of anonymity.
Aquino said some of the suspects are also known as drug users apart from acting as drug protectors.
In May this year, the PDEA chief said they are investigating 31 celebrities including 11 known “big actresses” for their drug links. He did not identify any of the celebrities but said 20 of them are male while 11 are female in their 20s and 30s.
During a ‘RealNumbersPH’ press conference, Aquino said that the number of persons arrested as a result of the Duterte government’s war on drugs since 2016 has already breached the 200,000-mark with authorities now eyeing the arrest of more HVTs or the so-called big fish.
A total of 220,728 people were arrested in 151,601 anti-illegal drug operations from July 1, 2016 up to last Nov. 30, the PDEA chief said.
A total of 5,582 drug offenders have also been killed as result of the drug war, the majority slain in gunbattles with undercover police and PDEA officers.
Aquino said that a total of 8,185 HVTs were arrested, 2,290 of whom are on the President’s list. “We need more arrests of high-value targets,” he said.
Aquino said that they are also on the lookout for about 186 drug rings including those on President Duterte’s list.
The President’s list of over 12,000 HVTs include rogue public officials from congressmen to barangay captains and councilors.
Aquino also reported that a total of 42,025 villages were cleared of illicit drugs while 17,175 have yet to be cleared since 2016. Law enforcers have also dismantled a total of 433 drug dens and laboratories and seized an estimated P40.39 billion worth of dangerous drugs during the period.
Of the total volume of seized dangerous drugs, P31.25 billion of them was shabu and its precursors and other essential chemicals.