In an outdoor event held three years ago in time for the Sinulog Festival celebration, 20-year-old Jena (not her real name) joined her friends for a night of “fun, food and some booze.”
Jena, a Management student at a Catholic university in Cebu, said alcoholic drinks were passed around, and her friends urged her to take the drink because it was “uncool” if she refused to have it.
“I drink beer, but it feels wrong to take something from people whom I did not even know. But I gave in. After about 30 minutes, I felt very alert and I was jumping and I was screaming,” Jena, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview on Friday.
Jena said she suddenly had no inhibitions. She was hugging people and was feeling good about the flashing lights, loud music and the long hours of dancing.
Her friends started to notice that Jena was not just drunk.
“They suspected that I might have been drugged. I don’t remember anymore how they brought me to the hospital. I just woke up the following morning with my mother telling me that my drink had illegal drugs mixed with it. They suspect that it was ecstasy,” she recalled.
The arrest of two Cebuano businessmen who were caught with a number of ecstasy pills in a buy-bust operation on Thursday has once again raised the question of the possible proliferation of party drugs such as ecstasy in Cebu.
Senior Insp. Narrolf Tan, deputy chief of the Cebu City’s Drug Enforcement Unit (CDEU), said they received reports about the presence of ecstasy in the city, but he said they have yet to secure “concrete evidence” to support it.
However, he said, the arrest of Cebuano entrepreneurs Richard Ngo Go and Niel Benjamin Yap last Thursday was a huge breakthrough in trying to identify those into the sale of ecstasy in Cebu City.
“The arrest of the two suspects really helps. We’re hoping to get substantial leads from them,” Tan said in an interview on Saturday.
Chief Insp. Christopher Navida, chief of the CDEU, warned those who are into the sale and use of ecstasy to stop, otherwise the long arms of the law will soon get them.
“We will really arrest you,” he said.
Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), urged all the barangays to be alert and to coordinate with local authorities in case they notice the sale of ecstasy in their respective areas, especially that the Sinulog Festival is now in full swing.
The Sinulog Festival, while rooted in a Catholic feast, the Feast of the Señor Sto. Niño (Child Jesus) that has been drawing to Cebu thousands of Sto.
Niño devotees and pilgrims from all over the world every January, has also been bringing in thousands of domestic and foreign tourists.
These tourists, along with local residents, engage in days of partying, as hotels, restaurants and bars line up Sinulog-related activities.
The weeklong festival culminates in a mardi gras-like dance parade held every third Sunday of January, drawing at least a million people into the streets or along the parade route in Cebu City.
“We have to be vigilant and take a close look at Cebu’s party scene,” said Espino.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has reported that ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) has been the common party drug used by people in 2012.
At present, however, ecstasy, which costs P1,500 to P1,800 per capsule, is no longer used on its own but is mixed with shabu (crystal meth) and viagra to heighten the senses, especially sexual urges.
The Cebu City Police Office is coordinating with the Regional Special Operations Group in Central Visayas (RSOG-7) to gather more information about Go and Yap.
Go, the owner of R Suites Cafe in Mandaue City, was arrested on Thursday by police, including RSOG-7 operatives, for possession of 10 pieces of blue square tablets believed to be Blue Telegram Ecstasy, a plastic bottle of orange liquid substance, a package of orange capsule believed to be Orange
In the course of the investigation, Go allegedly told the police that Yap was his supplier. The police then instructed Go to contact Yap and buy ecstasy from the latter.
Police said Yap later arrived at R Suites Cafe and brought three pieces of yellow tablets, two capsules believed to be ecstasy, and another 10 pieces of orange capsules, among others.
Go and Yap are facing charges for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Some bar owners in Cebu vowed to strictly monitor all activities inside their respective establishment to get rid of ecstasy.
Patrick Maluya, media liaison of Plus63 Music and Arts Festival, said security is the top priority of the organizers especially in dealing with issues on illegal drugs.
The festival, which is now on its third year, will be held at the Cebu Business Park on January 20.
“When it comes to illegal substances, we have deployed K9 units to make sure that our participants are safe. Our personnel are also trained to spot people who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, we do not allow them to enter (the venue),” he told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview on Saturday.
Maluya said the Cebu-based organizer, Plus63 Festival Inc., has coordinated with the Philippine National Police and the Cebu City government to make sure that people are safe and secure in the entire duration of the event.
“Those found with illegal drugs will be automatically evicted. There are security personnel all over the place. We have the medical team, the fire marshals in place. Security is our top priority,” he said.
Meanwhile, the marketing manager of prominent clubs in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue said they practice “triple frisking” to make sure that those who enter their bars do not bring with them deadly weapons and illegal drugs.
“We are very strict about security. If our bouncer suspects that the individual has illegal drugs in his possession, he is not allowed entry. We also trained our personnel well. They are briefed not to touch any suspicious item that are in the pockets or bags of the guests,” said the bar manager.
One bar in this group has 20 security personnel which include bouncers and guards. It can accommodate between 800 to 1,200 people.
The manager said they work with the local police in making sure that safety and security are observed. /with SENIOR REPORTER ADOR VINCENT T. MAYOL