PNP: Drug cartel operations a ‘big possibility’

THE head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Visayas has raised the possibility that the operations of a drug cartel may have reached the region as recent apprehensions would tend to show.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Albert Ignatius Ferro has tasked police operatives to investigate the source of P54.4 million worth of shabu, disguised as Chinese tea bags, confiscated in two separate police operations on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.

Ferro said the packaging was similar to illegal drugs recovered by operatives of the National Capital Regional Police Office and the Police Regional Office-Eastern Visayas.

Ferro said the Chinese tea bag used as packaging for the recovered illegal drugs came from Myanmar. But he had yet to receive information on whether the illegal drugs also came from the Southeast Asian country.

Ferro believes the illegal drugs may have been transported to Cebu through Mindanao and other areas in the Visayas.

A source from Camp Crame who spoke to SunStar Cebu on condition of anonymity said a certain Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national known as the “Asian El Chapo,” may be behind the production of illegal drugs in the country. (Editor’s note: Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is a Mexican drug lord who led the Sinaloa Cartel, an international drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime syndicate, until his final capture by Mexican authorities in 2016.)

Ferro cannot confirm Tse’s involvement but said there is a “big possibility” that a drug cartel may have started to operate here.

“There’s a big possibility because the Golden Triad is really into our country a long, long time ago. Remember that the major players here in our country is the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, second is the Chinese and Filipino Chinese drug cartel, the bamboo triad, and the West African drug trafficking syndicates,” Ferro said.

Ferro, however, discounts the possibility that a shabu laboratory has been established in Central Visayas even with the huge amount of illegal drugs recovered by his personnel.

72-hour operation

Close to 500 people were arrested and more than P70 million worth of illegal drugs were confiscated in a three-day police operation across Cebu from Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 until Thursday, Feb. 20.

The P70.7 million worth of illegal drugs were mostly from police operations conducted in Cebu City with P60.7 million or close to nine kilograms of suspected shabu confiscated here.

According to the PRO 7, the 72-hour police operation under a program called Synchronized Enhancement Managing and Police Operations (Sempo) resulted in the roundup of 483 suspects, 344 of whom had a warrant of arrest including 59 high-value drug targets.

“Chinese tea bags”

Among those arrested was 35-year-old Elmer Bas Gallarde from whom police, during a buy-bust in Barangay Apas Cebu City, seized 3,005 grams of shabu worth P20.4 million, placed in Chinese tea bags.

Gallarde, described by police as a high-value drug target, reportedly served as “bodegero” or warehouse keeper for his source based in Metro Manila.

Following Gallarde’s arrest, operatives immediately conducted a follow-up operation in Sitio Sta. Lucia, Barangay Poblacion, Consolacion town, which resulted in the arrest of Kirby Abanilla, a resident of Barangay Suba, Cebu City.

Abanilla reportedly delivered Gallarde’s illegal drug supply from Luzon. The drugs recovered, estimated to be worth P34 million, were also placed inside Chinese tea bags.

“Dealer talaga ito (He’s really a dealer) directly connected to the suppliers,” said Police Col. Engelbert Soriano, Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) director.

Soriano said the names of the two suspects often cropped up in text messages from cellphones of drug pushers who were arrested in earlier operations.

Gallarde and Abanilla also disclosed to the police some of their drug links who are now the subject of follow-up operations, Soriano said.

Ferro lauded the accomplishments of all the police units involved in the three-day operation.

Almost half of those arrested in the Sempo or 221 people were considered street level drug sellers.

Aside from the illegal drugs, PRO 7 personnel were able to confiscate 289 loose firearms.

Of the number, 186 guns were confiscated by the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) while 103 were seized by the CCPO.

Meanwhile, anti-drug operatives of CPPO were able to recover more than a kilo of suspected shabu worth close to P8 million and around P1 million worth of marijuana plants.

Among CPPO’s accomplishments during the three-day operation was the arrest of 90 persons in Talisay City including 41 who were involved in illegal drugs, said Police Maj. Gerard Ace Pelare, Talisay City police chief.

Those arrested in Talisay City included Barangay Lawaan 3 Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chairperson Guendolyn Luage, 22, and her father, Francisco.

Talisay City police conducted a total of 18 anti-illegal drug operations within three days with one resulting in the death of Gilbert Campo, a suspected drug pusher who reportedly operated under Luage.

Police recovered 68.13 grams of suspected shabu, with an estimated market value of P449,684 in Talisay.

Pelare said continuous operations in Barangay Tanke, a notorious drug-infested area, pushed drug dealers to move their illegal operations to other barangays.

“The illegal drug trade, as expected, has moved to Barangay Lawaan and Tabunok, but the police, having already anticipated this, aptly conducted these recent operations to arrest this spill-over,” Pelare said. (AYB, BBT, GPL and FMD / JKV)


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