MARIJUANA PLANTATION UNCOVERED IN CEBU CITY
Drug haul, uprooted marijuana plantations net P13.7M for authorities
Amid the relentless efforts by various law enforcement units, drug traders and marijuana cultivators are apparently undeterred, risking all despite possibility of serving life terms in jail.
Even as authorities keep on siphoning off drugs from the streets in previous operations, more are still being made available, as evidenced by the large haul that agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) and the police uncovered and confiscated in just 24 hours.
At least P12.7 million worth of shabu (methamphetamine) and marijuana plants were seized in separate operations since Tuesday — an indication that the drug trade persists.
But PDEA-7 Spokesperson Leia Albiar said the drug problem in Cebu is not as worse as in previous years.
“Yes, the proliferation of illegal drugs continues but law enforcement units were able to somehow reduced it,” she said in an interview on Wednesday.
Based on their monitoring, Albiar said drug personalities have been forced to raise the price of shabu from P8,000 per five grams to up to P30,000 due to the decline in supply and the high risks involved in trading drugs under the Duterte administration.
In fact, she said some of the shabu they seized contained some additives that were not originally among its ingredients.
“These are indications that the drug supply has really reduced. Of course, we could not, at this point, totally eradicate illegal drugs but we’re doing our best,” Albiar said.
At around 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, PDEA-7 agents arrested a couple who allegedly had links to self-confessed drug lord Franz Sabalones, and seized 600 grams of shabu worth P3 million in a drug bust inside their residence in Barangay Lagtang, Talisay City.
Spouses Mesael and Janice Palermo did not resist arrest.
The drug bust came about 15 hours after PDEA-7 agents and the police raided six marijuana plantations in the mountain barangay of Tagbao in Cebu City, located about 25 kilometers from the city proper.
A total of 22,532 marijuana plants valued at P9.1 million were uprooted and seized by authorities.
No one was around when the raiding teams arrived-at the marijuana plantations, which covered an aggregate area of about 11,000 square meters.
Authorities have yet to determine who owned the plantations, which adjoined each other but were located in isolated slopes that were covered by thick and dense vegetation to hide the plants from law enforcers.
Albiar said they were alerted about the presence of the marijuana plantations in the hinterland village, by a concerned citizen.
The PDEA-7 agents were assisted by the Cebu Provincial Police Office and some units of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) in raiding the marijuana plantations.
On top of the major drug and marijuana busts, policemen from all 11 police stations in Cebu City also arrested 34 drug suspects and seized a total of P1.6 million worth of shabu in its weekly “Oplan Pokemon” on Wednesday, said Senior Supt. Joel Doria, director of the CCPO.
Oplan Pokemon is named after the famous Pokemon Go mobile game, Instead of catching “pocket monsters,” Doria directed his police officers to simultaneously conduct buy-bust operations to catch drug personalities and other criminals.
Alleged Sabalones’ underlings
In arresting the Palermo couple last Tuesday, Albiar said the PDEA-7 conducted surveillance operations against the couple for three months before they hatched the operation against them.
Based on their investigation, the couple — both of whom were on their drugs watchlist — were peddling illegal drugs to customers in the cities of Cebu and Talisay.
“When Sabalones lied low, they (Palermo couple) directly dealt with the former’s customers,” Albiar said.
The suspects, she said, may have operated on their own since the PDEA-7 has not monitored any illegal activity involving Sabalones since the latter surrendered to the Philippine National Police in 2016.
“I’m not, however, saying that he (Sabalones) is off the hook because we are continuously monitoring his activities,” Albiar said.
Sabalones, a native of San Fernando town, south of Cebu, was released from police custody since he was not charged with any case in court yet.
He is nonetheless facing an investigation before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for his alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
Albiar said the Palermo couple got their supply of illegal drugs from another drug personality.
She, however, refused to reveal the source of illegal drugs while the PDEA-7 continues its investigation.
“I’m not at liberty to disclose the source of illegal drugs for now but I tell you he’s a big drug personality,” Albiar said.
The suspects denied the allegations, saying they were not involved in the illegal drugs trade. They refused to elaborate.
Complaints for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, particularly for possession and selling of shabu, will be filed against Mesael who directly transacted with the undercover agent of PDEA-7.
Under the law, selling of illegal drugs is a non-bailable offense.
His wife Janice, on the other hand, will be facing a complaint for possession of illegal drugs after packs of shabu were purportedly found inside her pocket.
Janice shall also remain in jail pending the resolution of the case since the prohibited substance allegedly recovered from her was over five grams.
The complaints will be filed by PDEA-7 at the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office today.
No let up
Albiar appealed to barangay officials to step up efforts to combat illegal drugs even as law enforcers continue the relentless campaign against narcotics.
“There will be no let up in our campaign against illegal drugs. But I urge barangay officials, not just to activate their respective Barangay Drug Abuse Councils (Badac), but to really make it functional,” she said.
“In Central Visayas, the Badac were all activated yet not all are functional. If there will be drug users, we won’t be able to completely eradicate the menace of illegal drugs,” she added.
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