Police closing in on big syndicate behind P2.6-B shabu

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

POLICE are conducting follow-up operations against a big drug syndicate that is believed to have been behind the P2.6-billion illegal drugs seized from a Chinese high-value target.

Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa said they were certain that the illegal drugs recovered from the apartment of Chinese national Liu Chao were imported and that a “big time” drug syndicate brought it into the country.

“Basehan na lang natin sa laki ng confiscation and as far as we can remember ito ‘yung pinakamalaki na drug buy bust operations so from there we can gauge na talagang malaki ito (na sindikato),” he said in a press conference Thursday, November 28, at Camp Crame.

(Let's just base it on the volume of drugs confiscated. As far as we can remember, this is the biggest drug haul. From there, we can gauge that a really big syndicate is involved.)

He did not identify the leaders of the alleged drug syndicate.

The PNP-Drug Enforcement Group (DEG) under the leadership of Colonel Romeo Caramat seized a total of 388 kilos of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) in related operations on November 26 and 27.

The first operation was conducted around 11:45 p.m. on November 26 in Barangay San Antonio, Makati City, where a poseur buyer was able to buy a kilogram of shabu from Liu Chao.

DEG operatives later found 371 kilograms of shabu worth P2.5 billion in Liu's room. The contraband was packed in foil packs marked as Chinese tea.

During a follow-up operation around 11:30 a.m. of November 27 at a parking lot in Barangay Manuyo, Las Piñas City, operatives arrested Joel and Merwin Bustamante who yielded 17 kilograms of shabu.

Police said the two were among the drug couriers of Liu and that they have been under surveillance for the past two weeks.

Brigadier General Rolando Hinanay, PNP-Crime Laboratory director, said of the total volume, 990 grams already underwent examination and were confirmed to be white-crystalline shabu.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) spokesperson Derrick Carreon said the white crystalline shabu is the highest grade of shabu.

Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Catalino Cuy said the recovery of such a big volume of shabu shaved off 388 kilos of illegal drugs from the streets.

“Definitely (bababa ang supply). Nawala sa market so may vacuum sa supply side,” Cuy said during the same press conference.

He said, however, that they have not determined the exact inventory of illegal drugs in the country.

“We are just basing our mga data based on the confiscation, mga discovery at saka ‘yung estimate. Even ‘yung ating drug dependents wala pa rin tayong accurate figure. We are just basing it on the estimate nga. Right now the DDB is in the process of conducting survey in order to determine ‘yung drug prevalence dito sa Pilipinas,” he said.

“So hindi ko masagot ‘yung question mo kanina kung oversupply tayo o undersupply basta with this confiscation which indicates medyo patuloy pa rin,” he added.

Caramat said there were about three million drug users in the country in 2002. Each user required around a gram each week.

He said the operation against Liu was a follow-up to an operation they conducted on November 6 in a restaurant in Baclaran in Pasay City which resulted in the arrest of two suspects and the seizure of six kilograms of illegal drugs.

Cuy, Gamboa and PDEA deputy director general for operations Gregorio Pimentel all said they were in favor of death penalty for those convicted of grave illegal drugs involvement. (SunStar Philippines)