Briones: The illegal drug problem

Publio Briones

IT HAS been more than three years since the Philippine government waged war against the illegal drug trade throughout the archipelago.

More than 5,000 persons have been killed. The figure could even reach 30,000 if you include “deaths under investigation.” Either way, it is safe to say that the death toll is high.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise to end the rampant drug trade in three to six months remains elusive. At the end of 2017, he even asked for a one-year extension.

Well, it’s now 2020. And the head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Visayas has raised the possibility that a drug cartel may be operating in the region.

And I’m like, you think? How did Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro arrive at this conclusion? Because P54.4 million worth of shabu, disguised as tea bags, were confiscated in two separate police operations on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Barangay Apas, Cebu City and Barangay Poblacion in the northern town of Consolacion? Seriously.

Maybe he wasn’t told about the arrest of Elymar Tampos Ancajas in Barangay Inayawan, Cebu City last March where operatives of the Cebu City Police Office together with members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency seized nine extra-large packs of shabu weighing 18 kilos worth P122.4 million.

How about the four large packs of shabu weighing 10 kgs. worth P68 million that were found in the house of Jocelyn Encila in Barangay Casili, Consolacion hours later.

The shabu in Encila’s house might have been packed with garlic and not stuffed in tea bags but the fact that both operations happened within a two-hour period should have raised warning flags.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not questioning Ferro’s announcement just his seeming naivete on the issue.

We all know the drug trade remains a serious problem. In fact, the war the Duterte administration is waging may have just uncovered the tip of the iceberg.

Although Ferro could not confirm if Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national who is said to be behind the production of illegal drugs in the country, is already operating in Cebu, he said it is possible that a drug cartel may have started to operate here.

“There’s a big possibility because the Golden Triad is really into our country a long, long time ago. Remember that the major players here in our country is the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, second is the Chinese and Filipino-Chinese drug cartel, the bamboo triad and the West African drug trafficking syndicates,” Ferro said.

Excuse me?

It’s not exactly what I’d like to hear from the region’s top police official. I want something definitive when dealing with a serious problem like the illegal drug trade. Not chances, likelihoods or prospects.

Still, I am behind the police on their war against drugs. After all, it’s a black-and-white issue.