DUTERTE DECLARES CEBU HAS HIGHEST DRUG RATE
It’s a thing of the past, according to top anti-drug enforcers in Cebu
Cebu has the highest drug rate in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed on Wednesday.
But the President’s information is likely old and a thing of the past, said the heads of the two top law enforcement agencies in Cebu.
“We could not deny that there are many drug-infested barangays here. But now, we managed to slow down and reduce the supply of illegal drugs in Cebu,” said Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).
Just recently, the Cebu Provincial Police Office and the provincial government likewise declared as “drug free” 128 of the 203 barangays in the different towns in Cebu.
Mr. Duterte on Wednesday announced that the drug problem in the Philippines has reached epidemic proportions with Cebu having the highest drug rate in the country.
In a message he delivered during the Philippine Councilors’ League 10th National Congress in Pasay City, the President said Cebu has the highest rate of drug abuse with about 60 to 70 percent, an ABS-CBN report said.
Mr. Duterte did not say where he got the information.
Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) described Mr. Duterte’s pronouncements as “alarming” and “a challenge for us to double our efforts in our campaign against illegal drugs.”
Both Ruiz and Taliño said they did not give that information to the President and had no idea where he got the report.
Ruiz surmised that Mr. Duterte’s information was based on the data before the new administration took over in July last year.
“Before, law enforcers here were afraid of drug lords. Now, it’s the other way around,” said Ruiz, alluding to some policemen and other law enforcers who were linked to illegal drugs and were moved out of Central Visayas.
asaid Cebu, which is located at the center of the country, has become a transshipment point of illegal drugs.
“Cebu has access to almost all the ports in the Philippines, especially in Visayas and Mindanao. That’s why our approach should be proactive. We are doing everything to fight drug syndicates within the bounds of the law,” he said.
He said illegal drugs thrived in Cebu in the past possibly because syndicates were protected by some law enforcers and barangay officials.
Since July, about 200 police officials and personnel in Cebu were relieved from their posts and transferred to other regions after they were linked to illegal drugs.
He said the internal cleansing in the Philippine National Police and the PDEA continues, even as some 400 new agents are set to join PDEA-7 next month and are expected to help the agency in going after high-value targets.
“PDEA-7 is serious in the fight against illegal drugs. We are doing it 25/7, not 24/7. We don’t care if we don’t have enough sleep as long as we carry out our mandate to the best of our abilities,” said Ruiz.
Ruiz believed they were able to cripple the activities of drug syndicates in Cebu because of unrelenting police and PDEA anti-drug operations since July last year.
The street price of shabu has also gone up, an indication that the supply of illegal drugs in Cebu has dwindled, said Ruiz, noting that the five grams of shabu that sold at P6,500 in Cebu last year now cost from between P13,500 to P15,000.
“I supposed they are in panic mode right now. I believe they lost billions of (pesos) and I know they do everything to demoralize us. But we won’t be,” he said.
The PRO-7 has said that at least 22,046.58 grams of shabu worth P260.14 million were seized in different operations in Central Visayas since July 1, 2016. Over the same period, some 106,980 drug pushers and users surrendered to authorities while 5,413 were arrested.
At least 157 drug suspects were killed in different operations in the region, while 352 others were gunned down by unknown assailants.
What’s the basis?
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, meanwhile, said he would want to know what was Mr. Duterte’s basis in saying that Cebu has the highest drug rate in the country.
While drug cases in Cebu are high, he said the same goes with other parts of the country like in Metro Manila.
“I cannot also say for certain nga iyahang (Duterte’s) figures (are) correct or unsa ba, (but) who fed the president that data? Kay I don’t believe Cebu lang tingali. Metro Manila diay? Ubang areas? Like Metropolitan areas?” Davide said.
(I cannot say that President Duterte’s figures are correct or not. But who fed the president that data? Because I don’t believe that it is only Cebu which has a high drug rate. How about Metro Manila? Other areas like Metropolitan areas?)
Ivy Druano-Meca, head of Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office, said she, too, wants to know where the President got the information.
“If that’s the case, we need to clarify in what aspect number one. Number 1 in surrenderers? Supplies? In drug distribution? Or in general? Anything we need to clarify,” Meca said.
Both Davide and Meca said there’s nothing to be alarmed although they encouraged law enforcers in Cebu to work hard to get rid of illegal drugs.
But Cebu City Councilor Jocelyn “Joy” Pesquera, who attended the Philippine Councilors’ League 10th National Congress in Pasay City, said she did not hear Mr. Duterte speak about Cebu as having the highest drug rate in the country.
What she heard, she said, was that the President referred to Cebu having the most number of policemen involved in illegal drugs.
But Pesquera said she does not believe that Cebu has the most number of policemen involved in drugs.
“I can’t say Cebu has the most number of policemen involved in illegal drugs, although we heard a number of personalities involved. But I think it is unfair because I believe there are more good policemen than bad,” she told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview.
Pesquera, who was near the stage where the President delivered the speech, said he only mentioned Cebu in passing and did not give any basis for his statement.
She said President Duterte focused on talking about his instructions to the police on the war on illegal drugs.
Pesquera said Cebu may have just been highlighted since the anti-illegal drugs campaign here is active and highly publicized through the media.
With five of the country’s top suspected drug lords tracing their roots and operations in Cebu, Taliño last year described the problem on illegal drugs in Cebu as atrocious.
Like Ruiz, Taliño believed there were police officers who coddled drug syndicates in Cebu.
Although several policemen were already transferred outside Cebu, Taliño said PRO-7 continues to monitor all their members to make sure no one engages in illegal drugs.
Five Cebuanos — namely Peter Lim, Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., Rowen “Yawa” Secretaria, Franz Sabalones, and Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz — hit the headlines after they were identified as among the big-time drug lords in the country.
Espinosa and Sabalones have confessed their participation in the illegal drugs trade, while Diaz, considered as Central Visayas’ top drug lord, was killed in a police operation on June 17, 2016, barely a week after he expressed his intent to surrender and squeal on his connections and protectors in government.
Secretaria was killed in another police operation on Banacon Island in Bohol on May 28, 2016, three weeks after Duterte won the presidential race.
Lim, a prominent Cebuano businessman who was publicly identified by Duterte as a drug lord, repeatedly denied any involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
Retired police general and now Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot was also named as among the five top police generals identified as illegal drug “protectors” by Duterte. Loot, too, belied the charges.
Last Jan. 30, on Duterte’s order, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa prohibited policemen from conducting anti-drugs operation following the death of a Korean businessman at the hands of rogue cops inside Camp Crame. Since then, the police prioritized going after rogue policemen.
But last week, Mr. Duterte allowed the police to resume their anti-drug operations amid reports of a resurgent narcotics trade. However, Dela Rosa said only select policemen would be deployed to continue the war on drugs.
In response to the orders, Taliño formed a special police drug enforcement unit — the only group that can conduct anti-drug operations. Those who will compose the units, he said, are policemen who are not involved in any illegal activity or controversy.
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