THE seizure of P6.4 billion worth of shabu last May in a Valenzuela, Bulacan warehouse stood out mainly for the volume of contraband seized. But as the twin Congress probes continue, the scandal is shaking up the Bureau of Customs to its core, casting doubt on the integrity of officials, and raising the question whether the anti-illegal drugs campaign has beem missing a major entry point of drugs into the country, no less than the bureau’s express lane.
The mess stinks to high heavens. Things to consider:
VOLUME, AMOUNT. The cargo that has shaken BOC to its rafters, found at a warehouse in Bulacan and valued at P6.4 billion, was already the fourth. The lone person arrested during the raid testified there were similar shipments in June 2016 and in January and March this year. Even at 30% less--it could even be more, police said--than most recent shipment, figure the volume and amount of shabu already released on the market. Count the crime money and think of the extent of poison that reached users of the illegal drug.
WEAK, CORRUPT. That they entered the Philippines through the Bureau of Customs, “right under the noses of Customs officials” (legislators kept repeating that), strongly showed a weak and corrupt system. The smugglers were so confident they staked a huge fortune in using it. Supreme insult? Yes but shrewd. While PDEA and police were combing drug dens and streets for paltry seizures, killing even a number of people in the effort, huge loads of shabu seamlessly flowed in through the front gate.
VULNERABLE FLANK. Another defective part of the war on drugs has been exposed. Those found earlier:
-- Lack of equipped and staffed rehab centers to house drug addicts who surrendered. Thus, many surrenderers must have resumed the vice.
-- Corruption in the police, which President Duterte said could affect 40% of the PNP. That stalled the campaign for awhile with the cops sidelined and PDEA given the major burden.
And now this. Efforts in going after the drugs when they were already in the market even as bulk shipments flowed right through Customs could be infuriating to the public.
HIGHLIGHTED DEFECT. Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano suspected Duterte’s “silence” on the Customs scandal, when he spoke out only when a customs broker told the House and the Senate that Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, the president’s son, could be involved in the bureau’s irregularities. Duterte said he’d quit as president if that was true. Sen. Ping Lacson twitted, asking Duterte if he was “not mad at the BOC” over the entry of 605 kilos of shabu. (Lacson’s number referred to the bird in hand, not the birds that earlier flew.)
Many senators and House members want BOC Chief Nicanor Faeldon sacked and prosecuted. On a different tack, Duterte reportedly would wait for the results of the separate House and Senate inquiries. That’s good, the due process thing, but people remember what he said repeatedly about dishonest officials: Even if they just smell of corruption, out they go.
Well, Faeldon’s fate can go the full route, or maybe not. More urgently needed is tending to the defects in the drug war campaign. The leaders waging that war may now realize that the death toll is not the sole measure of its progress. Plugging the holes where the drugs get in would help.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on August 14, 2017.
Latest issues of SunStar Cebu also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.