Is drug war backsliding?

The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported on 9 August this year that various drugs amounting to P904 million were seized during the first month of the Marcos administration. On the very day the PNP report came out, a couple was arrested in Quezon City after yielding P88 million worth of narcotics that would have made thousands of addicts happy had they not been seized.

The reports, not including the myriad other buy-bust operations that have escaped media attention, beg the questions: Are the drug syndicates and their minions back with a vengeance, and do they think happy days are here again with their nemesis, former president Rodrigo Duterte, now enjoying his days as Citizen Rody in retirement ville?

That may seem to be the case if we go by the big drug busts scored by government forces, led by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) last Friday, leading to the confiscation of P2.72 billion worth of shabu in Pangasinan, and P272 million of the same drug in La Union.

A 49-year-old Chinese residing in San Vicente, Agoo, La Union and three Filipinos were arrested in the Pangasinan drug sting, and their drug stash — 360 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, packed as Chinese tea — was seized.

In a follow-up operation, two Filipinos were collared in San Fernando, La Union after yielding 40 kilos of shabu, otherwise known as crystal meth. In both ops, the PDEA was backstopped by the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

BoC’s involvement in the operations tends to show that the drugs came from abroad, probably from the so-called Golden Triangle. Likewise, it raises the distinct possibility that the Philippines has once again become a stopover or a transshipment point of drugs, thus the need for the BoC and the Philippine Coast Guard to tighten our borders.

As expected, PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva was brimming with elation with the billions of pesos worth of drugs that had been taken off the streets, drugs that would have further fueled criminality and the destruction of the moral fabric of society.

To put into context the P2.72 billion worth of shabu seized from the Chinese and his three local cohorts in Pangasinan, we have to remember that as of last February, or nearly for the entire six years of the Duterte administration, the total value of the various drugs that had been seized amounted to P76 billion.

So, if the drug syndicates think the Marcos administration would be a pushover when it comes to playing that cat-and-mouse game of flooding the country with narcotics, government forces must prove them wrong by doing more supply-side constrictions.

Big busts, like the one in Pangasinan, entail a lot of intelligence gathering as drug syndicates are not buffoons who do not address the mistakes that lead to their losing men and merchandise. It will always be a case of one-upmanship between the government and those who make a living by killing people, both those addicted to their stuff and those unfortunate innocent people who become crime victims of the addicts.

The Marcos administration already has the blueprint on how to deal with the drug menace, although it said, in not so many words, that its playbook would deviate from Duterte’s “tokhang” and all that the knocking on the doors of individual addicts or pushers entailed.

As the Duterte government made it virtually impossible to “cook” commercial quantity shabu locally with the dismantling of drug labs that were heretofore situated in houses in exclusive subdivisions, the big challenge for the Marcos administration is to stop the ingress of ready-to-use drugs from abroad.

As Rody himself admitted, the fight against drugs will always be a continuing one, in whatever nation of the world one is situated. The reason is that as long as there are crackheads in our midst, there will always be those willing to provide them with whatever poison they want.

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