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Block the shabu supply

IT has now been over a year since the start of President Duterte’s campaign against drugs. The initial reports on the campaign were about police operations that led to many arrests, surrenders, and deaths. The drug problem turned out to be so widespread that the initial three-month deadline set by the President was extended to six months and now, it looks like even six years may not be enough to root it out.

In August last year, President Duterte named over 150 officials in the judiciary, the police, and local governments who, he said, were involved in the drug trade. The list included seven judges, 13 current and former local government officials from Luzon, 14 from Visayas, and 26 from Mindanao, three former and current congressmen, and 95 police officials and personnel.

The cases against these officials are in various stages of investigation today. One of the mayors in the list was killed along with 14 others last Sunday in Ozamiz City, in a gunbattle that erupted when police sought to serve a search warrant on the mayor’s home. There will be many more such operations, according to PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

The reports on the deaths of thousands of pushers and addicts and now the incidents involving local officials are linked to the consumption and distribution aspects of the drug trade. Many have asked why very little seems to have been accomplished in the other end of the trade – the supply end, the source of the shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride.

Because shabu is a chemically produced drug – unlike opium and heroin from the poppy fields of Afghanistan and cocaine from the coca plantations of Bolivia – its supply was initially curtailed when local laboratories were discovered and shut down in the early months of the anti-drugs campaign. But the main supply, it is believed, comes from outside the country and is smuggled quite easily through the country’s porous borders.

Last week, a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee opened an inquiry on a report that 600 kilos of shabu valued at P6.4 billion had been seized by customs agents in Valenzuela City in Bulacan last May. At the hearing, Customs Commissioner Faeldon testified that with its present x-ray equipment, the bureau can handle only 16 percent of all shipments at the Manila International Container Port.

The consignee of the shipments from China, the Senate found, had long been moving its cargo through the Bureau of Customs “green lane,” introduced in 2013 to speed up the release of shipments. These shipments no longer need to undergo inspection or document verification. Of the company’s 534 shipments from March 21 to May 29, 2017, 484 went through the green lane.

Despite the intensifying anti-drug operations in the last few months, the supply of shabu in the country seems to have continued undiminished. The Senate probe may have exposed a major reason for this and this channel should now be quickly blocked, as the hunt for other possible sources of shabu supply continues.

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