NOTING that marijuana remains the 2nd drug of choice in the Philippines and a favorite of drug users during the Yuletide Season, Philippine National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas has ordered an intensified effort to prevent the smuggling of marijuana into Metro Manila and other urban parts of the country where they will serve as an alternative to shabu amid the reported shortage in the supply of the so-called ‘poor man’s cocaine.’
The PNP chief said he wants more ‘intelligence-driven’ operations to identify and arrest members of marijuana trafficking syndicates who are using different modes of concealment to sneak in the prohibited crops to the metropolis.
The top cop issued the instruction to all police commanders after joint agents of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Ronald O. Lee and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) under Brig. Gen. Vicente D. Danao Jr. seized 218 kilograms of high-grade marijuana bricks during a buy-bust in front of KKK Heavy Equipment and Supply along EDSA, Barangay Apolonio Samson in Balintawak, Quezon City two Sundays ago.
“Based on our investigation, the huge volume of marijuana came from Cordillera region and would be distributed in the National Capital Region. Right now, we’re assessing if the prohibited crops will be used by syndicates as an alternative for shabu since we have monitored an increase in the demand for marijuana in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon including Calabarzon and Mimaropa regions,” Sinas said.
The PNP chief said he wants a thorough investigation into the activities of the three suspects arrested in the Q.C. sting since it was the first time that PNP agents confiscated such a huge volume of marijuana in Metro Manila. He said that during his stint as NCRPO director, the biggest marijuana seizure they made was around 30 kilograms only.
The top cop said it is apparent that marijuana traffickers are using different concealment methods to smuggle the prohibited crop to the metropolis from Cordillera region, one of which is mixing them up with vegetable crops.
“Sa checkpoints kasi, plain view concept lang kami. Pag isinabay sa mga gulay, wala naman kaming K-9 o dog sniffers sa mga checkpoints kaya maaaring makalusot. Yun ang limitation sa aming mga checkpoints unless we have reasons to believe that the vehicle is carrying contraband or we have a search warrant to search the vehicle,” Gen. Sinas said.
PNP Deputy Director for Administration, Colonel Rolando Destura said the sting was triggered by a similar arrest made by the Bulacan Police Provincial Office in Guiguinto municipality.
He said that two suspects identified as Devetrix Alejo and Gilbert Baydon are still being hunted as of press time.
Arrested during the Q.C. buy-bust were Dianne Irene Cambalicer, a 37-year-old businesswoman; Louie Mark Cuerdo,29, driver; and Angelo Buenaventura ,22, who are now all being held at the PNP-DEG headquarters in Camp Crame and facing non-bailable charges for trafficking and possession of prohibited drugs under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The offense carries a penalty of life imprisonment and as much as a P10 million fine upon conviction.
Lee said members of the DEG Special Operations Unit 3 led by Lieutenant Hazel Mabilin and the NCRPO Regional Intelligence Division headed by Lieutenant Colonel Hansel Marantan were principally involved in the anti-narcotics operation.
The PNP-DEG and NCRPO-RID agents got support from the Q.C. Police District Station 3 and the PNP Highway Patrol Group’s NCR Unit in arresting the trio who were believed to have gotten the high-grade marijuana from Cordillera region which is still the top producer of cannabis in the country.
Last week, PNP-DEG operatives spearheaded a marijuana eradication operation in Tinglayan, Kalinga which resulted in the seizure and destruction of an estimated P1 million worth of fully-grown cannabis.
Lee said members of the DEG Special Operations Unit 1 led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Flores, with the help of officers from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Cordillera Police Regional Office swooped down on the clandestine marijuana plantation area in Barangay Buscalan Tuesday afternoon.
Officers uprooted some 5,000 pieces of fully-grown marijuana plants and seedlings in the area and burned them on site.