More than P400 million worth of drugs had been seized while at least 9,000 drug suspects were arrested and about 400 others killed in Central Visayas since July 1 last year.
About 90 percent of the figures occurred in Cebu, yet the island remained a “hot spot” for illegal drugs.
This was according to President Duterte in a speech he delivered at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) anniversary in Manila on Wednesday.
“Now, medyo nalinis ’yon (Now, we already cleaned Cebu a bit). We changed guards there,” he added.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), and Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7), agreed with the President’s assessment.
“Yes, that’s true. Big-time drug lords started here before they spread to other places,” said Taliño on Thursday.
He explained that while a number of them had either been arrested or killed, their underlings continued to operate.
Ruiz, in a separate interview, said the low number of villages in Cebu that had been declared drug-free may have been used as basis by the President in putting the spotlight on the island.
Of 1,066 barangays in the province, only 160 villages had been declared “drug-free” by the Oversight Committee on Illegal Drugs. (see separate story)
On the other hand, not one of the 80 barangays in Cebu City was cleared of illegal drugs.
“We can really say that there is a problem based on the number of barangays that have not been declared as drug-free. And so, we really have to pay attention to what the President is saying,” Ruiz said.
A village can be considered “drug-free” if it has complied with the parameters set by the committee which includes the absence of drug pushers and users, and shabu laboratories.
In his speech, Mr. Duterte said Cebu was being used as a transshipment point of illegal drugs intended for different parts of the Visayas.
The narcotics trade in Cebu thrived, he said, due to the protection by police, although these scalawags had been transferred out of the region.
“Sabi ko nga Iloilo was the bedrock. Doon pinapadaan ang shabu sa Visayas (As I said, Iloilo was the bedrock. It is where the supply of shabu in the Visayas is being coursed through),” said the President.
“But I see Cebu also as a hot spot sa droga kasali ang pulis ( But I see Cebu also as a hotspot for drugs, including the involvement of policemen),” he added.
Based on the records of the PRO-7, at least 9,466 drug suspects had been arrested in different police operations in Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor from July 1, 2016 to July 4, 2017.
Some 108,742 drug users and pushers surrendered to the authorities at the onset of Oplan TokHang or “Toktok Hangyo,” a police campaign that sent policemen knocking on the houses of drug suspects to ask them to surrender.
The same data showed that 188 drug suspects were killed in alleged shootouts with policemen, while 213 others were gunned down by still-unknown assailants over the same period.
The PRO-7 seized a total of 35,039.49 grams of shabu valued at P413.5 million.
Police officials said the figures may be region-wide, but the bulk of these — about 90 percent — was in Cebu.
Ruiz said the shabu supply in Cebu dwindled due to the administration’s brutal campaign against drugs.
“When the President assumed his post, the price of five grams of shabu in Cebu is P6,500. But right now, the price has increased to P15,000. It is an indicator that drug syndicates have a hard time getting their supply,” he explained.
“We’ve been obeying the President’s orders. We’re serious in our campaign against illegal drugs because we’re doing this not just for the sake of doing it but for our children’s future,” Ruiz said.
He said the public must expect they would be more relentless in the war against drugs.
Taliño said the recent arrests of government officials indicated that Cebu was a hot spot for illegal drugs.
Taliño was referring to the arrest of a barangay captain and three municipal councilors in separate drug raids in southern towns of Cebu.
Epifania Alvizo, barangay captain in Malabago in Badian town, southwest Cebu, was collared in a buy-bust operation on June 4 where at least P1.5 million worth of shabu was seized.
Three days later, police arrested Johnny Arrisgado, barangay captain of Magsico in San Fernando, and town councilors Edwin Quijano Villaver and Alfonso Donaire who were accused of being drug protectors.
“Almost 90 percent of the total barangays in Cebu are affected by illegal drugs. That’s how serious the drug problem in Cebu,” said Taliño.
He added some policemen are also involved in the illegal drug trade.
“I cannot give figures, but we continue to receive information that some policemen are still involved. We are monitoring them,” said Taliño.
He said the illegal drug trade also continued to thrive in jail facilities because some jail officers were in cahoots with drug suspects.
“If only those security measures were strictly implemented, illegal drugs would not be smuggled into jail facilities,” said Taliño.
Taliño said police will continue to be aggressive in the campaign.
“Yes, Cebu is a hot spot when it comes to illegal drugs, but we will eradicate this eventually. The police, along with the Philippine Drug Enforcement
Agency, will continue its intensified campaign against illegal drugs,” said Taliño.
Mayor Tomas Osmeña was not surprised by Mr. Duterte’s pronouncement.
“We have a drug problem here. There are many people emerging. I don’t know where all these drugs are coming from,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
He said the police were making headway, but the efforts were still not enough.
Osmeña said illegal drugs still exist in several barangays, including in Pasil, Suba, Inayawan, Ermita, Lorega San Miguel, Pulangbato, A. Lopez in Labangon and Calamba.
Osmeña, however, stressed that the current effort of the local police and other law enforcement agencies had been better than expected.
“I think (Senior Supt. Joel) Doria is exceptional. I think PDEA is doing well. But where are these (drugs) coming from?” he said.
Councilor Dave Tumulak, deputy mayor on police matters, said the President’s pronouncement only meant that Cebu was used as a transshipment point.
Based on reports, he said, Cebu had the highest total number of cases filed in court, highest total number of arrested persons and highest total number of kilos of shabu confiscated.
He said the police and other local government units should not be demoralized by the President’s pronouncement.