Biggest drug haul, but no one died – Marcos

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Biggest drug haul, but no one died � Marcos
In what was seen as a subtle dig at his predecessor’s bloody war on drugs, President Marcos inspects P13.3 billion worth of shabu, which he said was the largest drug haul in years that was conducted without anybody being killed, in Alitagtag, Batangas yesterday. Looking on is Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos.
Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The recovery of P13.3 billion worth of shabu in Batangas, considered to be the country’s biggest drug haul in a single police operation so far, indicated that the government’s “bloodless” campaign against illegal drugs is working, President Marcos said yesterday.

Marcos made the statement following the seizure of two tons of shabu at a police checkpoint in Alitagtag town on Monday morning.

Marcos yesterday joined officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, led by Secretary Benhur Abalos, in inspecting the drug haul in Alitagtag town.

Marcos said the arresting officers were able to capture a suspect without resorting to violence.?“This is the biggest shipment of shabu that we have seized. But not one person died. No one died, no one was shot, no one was hurt,” Marcos said.?“That’s (a bloodless) approach to the drug war. What’s important is we stop the shipment of drugs here in the Philippines,” he said.?Authorities are tracking down the source of the illegal drugs, Marcos said, noting the seized substance was not manufactured locally.?The illegal drugs were loaded in a passenger van that police pulled over at a checkpoint in Barangay Pinagkrusan.

The van driver was arrested and will be charged with violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Marcos said a test conducted on the confiscated drugs by the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed the illegal substance was of “very high quality,” or has “very high potency.”?The President assured the public that his administration would keep running after illegal drug syndicates, including the powerful ones or those connected with the government or politicians.?“The only way to get that is to continue to prosecute the drug war and … well within the law… so the cases can be filed and the syndicates can be identified. The guilty parties can be arrested and eventually imprisoned. And that is the point of this… of what we are doing. That’s the only way to approach it,” he said. ?The Marcos administration’s approach to the drug menace is a complete shift from the one taken by his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte under the controversial “Oplan Tokhang.”?Marcos said his government has changed the concept of the anti-drug campaign, focusing on preventing the use of banned substances and rehabilitating drug addicts.?He said the government would expand its illegal drug program by working closely with the Interpol or international police as well as with intelligence and drug agencies around the world, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ?“It’s the most successful approach to the drug war, so far, so why change it? We won’t change it, we’ll continue to do what we are doing. I cannot explain to you every detail of what we are doing, but we will continue to do what we are doing,” Marcos said.?The recent drug haul surpassed the previous 1,589 teabags of shabu valued at P11 billion that were seized in Infanta, Quezon in March 2022.

‘End drug war’

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Batangas drug haul was proof that the government could go after the illegal drug trade without resorting to violence “if authorities really do their job and follow due process.”

“The challenge now is for President Marcos to do the right thing: equivocally declare an end to the violent drug war, and rescind all Duterte-era orders that operationalized the ‘drug war,’” Carlos Conde, senior researcher at HRW’s Asia Division, said.

Conde said the government should also institutionalize harm reduction as a strategy in dealing with illegal drugs.

“Harm reduction puts premium on the rights of people who use drugs. Drug use is a public health issue. It’s time for Mr. Marcos to walk the talk on drug policy reform,” he added.

He expressed hope the drug summit announced by the Department of Justice would lead to “meaningful drug policy reforming, starting with abandoning the Duterte-style drug war.”

Records on the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign from July 2022 to December 2023 showed there were 36,803 operations conducted, which resulted in the arrest of 49,700 drug suspects, 3,284 of them were considered high value targets.

The government had filed 47,516 cases of anti-drug violation, 28,302 of which were resolved and 22,201 or 78.44 percent resulted in conviction.

Up to 2,427 or 8.58 percent resulted in dismissal, and 3,674 or 12.98 percent in acquittal.

At least 314,917 drug dependents participated in a community-based drug rehabilitation program while the 105 Balay Silangan Reformation Centers have produced 1,854 graduates.?Data showed 28,243 or 67.24 percent of barangays nationwide have been declared drug-free.?Duterte has been accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of committing crimes against humanity in connection with drug-related extrajudicial killings.

Over 6,000 drug suspects were killed under the Duterte drug war, according to government data. — Janvic Mateo, Ed Amoroso, Neil Jayson Servallos

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