‘Jelak’ the K9 dog – PDEA’s weapon of choice in the fight against drugs
JELAK is one lucky dog.
In a country where street dogs are a dime a dozen, Jelak does not only have a home but is also well-fed and sleeps in an air-conditioned room.
Moreover, his so-called luxurious life is paid for by the government.
In reality, however, it is the Philippine government that is lucky to have Jelak.
Jelak, a Belgian Malinois, is the K9 dog of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that has been responsible for the two biggest drug bust at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
If not for Jelak, Chinese national Liming Zhou, 27, would have gotten away with smuggling into the country 4.5 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride), valued at around P6 million
She arrived at the MCIA at 11:30 a.m. on July 20 from Xiamen, China, through Hong Kong on board a Cathay Pacific flight.
Zhou was lining up at the X-ray machine with other passengers at the arrival area when Olibert Estillore, the PDEA K-9 officer and handler of Jelak, noticed that she looked uneasy and kept going to the toilet.
The Bureau of Customs X-ray machine operator discovered the suspicious packages inside Zhou’s trolley luggage; but when it was opened by the examiners in the presence of the luggage owner, they only found the woman’s clothes.
But the examiners found a secret compartment inside the luggage and discovered inside eleven packages tightly wrapped by masking tapes.
Her light blue trolley bag was later found to contain several packs of white substance that Jelak instantly recognized to be shabu when he immediately sat after sniffing the packs. The Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory later confirmed it was indeed shabu.
The PDEA estimated the seized drug’s street value to be around P6.2 million. But based on a previous estimate provided by the Dangerous Drugs Board, the drug could be worth almost P48 million based on the prevailing street value of P11,800 per gram.
Worth the price
The 3-year old Jelak, like the two other K9 dogs at MCIA — 4-year-old Labrador named “JR” and 6-year-old Belgina Malinois named ”Glock” — was specifically trained to detect illegal substances, particularly shabu, at his former owner’s breeding farm in San Jose Belmonte, Bulacan.
The Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) is a medium-sized Belgian shepherd dog that at first glance resembles a German shepherd dog.
Originally developed in Malines, Belgium, Malinois are intelligent and very active dogs that excel at many tasks. In addition to herding, they also do well with police work, search and rescue and in performance events, such as agility, according to information culled from dogtime.com
Jelak, as a trained K9 dog, costs the PDEA P1.2 million. But he is worth the price and of the every peso spent on his upkeep, said Estillore.
According to Estillore, the discovery of shabu from the Chinese woman’s luggage on July 20 was Jelak’s second big catch. The first time was in 2014 when Jelak discovered the illegal drugs in a package sent through the courier company LBC that passed through the airport and which was suspected by the Bureau of Customs to have a suspicious content.
The consignee was traced to be a woman from Barangay Lorega in Cebu City who was subsequently arrested by authorities. The package came from the National Bilibid Prison, which has long been suspected to be either the distribution center or the source of many of the illicit drug circulating in the country.
Estillore said the recent achievement of Jelak sealed his status as a top K9 dog and is now even regarded a “hero” in the fight against illegal drugs.
Estillore admitted he has grown attached to and has developed a strong bond with Jelak because he spends more time with the dog than with his family, whom he only gets to see on his day off or on Sundays.
Jelak is easy to please and content with just playing catch with a tennis ball.
“Inatiman kaayo ni sa iyang health sama sa pagkaon, deworming, regular exercise. Unya ang katulganan aircon (The health of this dog is very well taken care of, such as his food, deworming and regular exercise. He sleeps in an air-conditioned room),” said Estillore.
The air-conditioned room is actually the office building that the PDEA maintains inside the airport complex, located only about 30 meters from the passenger terminal.
Estillore explained that PDEA’s three K9 dogs are fed with Nutra nuggets, a high protein dog food, undergo deworming every month and are regularly checked by a veterinarian.
Estillore said he and Jelak would go on duty on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when there are international arrivals.
But he said they would also be on call 24/7, recalling several instances when they would be called to the arrival area at dawn by the Bureau of Customs to inspect suspicious looking luggage.
He said they also got very busy during the times when the airport’s X-ray machines had malfunctioned, which necessitated using the PDEA K9 to detect illegal drugs.
The Philippine National Police has also assigned a K9 dog at MCIA, but this one specializes in detecting Explosive Ordnance Devices (EOD) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that might be smuggled through the airport.
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