IN TRYING to raise money for his 20th birthday today, Genes Joven Ermitanio did something he had last done two months ago: deliver a pack of shabu worth P11.8 million to a client for a service fee of P1,000.

It made him spend his birthday alone in a detention cell instead.

Ermitanio, a robbery convict who has done time, was arrested in a midnight transaction with an undercover policeman on Tres de Abril St. in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City yesterday.

He tried to run away from operatives of the Cebu City Intelligence Branch (CIB), but police officers managed to trap him on the other side of the road.

He had been elusive for the last two months, according to Supt. Romeo Santander, who said that Ermitanio changed his meeting place with a client in every transaction.

We never thought modako ang (the drug would become bigger in this) transaction. It’s too much,” Santander, the CIB’s chief, said.

Ermitanio admitted it was the largest pack of shabu he has ever delivered.

Mao unta to akong pang-blow out sa akong pamilya, pangdagkot pod (It was supposed to finance my birthday treat to my family today),” he said while scratching his head inside a Cebu City Police Office stockade.

Ermitanio, seventh in a brood of nine, considers his father and siblings as his only family. He has a two-year-old child with his former girlfriend, but he said he doesn’t care about them anymore.

In 2013, Ermitanio was convicted for robbery. An anti-robbery team of police had arrested him after he was found to be a member of a motorbike-riding robbery group operating in Barangay Guadalupe.

Since his release from the Cebu City Jail (CCJ) earlier this year, Ermitanio promised himself he would never go back to robbery activities again.

Human ato, wala na, pangwarta na lang sa amo, hakot tubig, bas (After my release, I chose to earn money by fetching water and sand for my neighbors),” he said.

A fellow inmate at the CCJ, however, invited Ermitanio to become a drug courier. He eventually accepted the offer. “Wa’y laing diskarte ba, wa’y laing trabaho (I can’t think of any other way to find a job).”

In an interrogation with intelligence officers after his arrest, Ermitanio mentioned the names of his bosses.

Mao na’y atong palawman pa gyud along with the PDEA (We’ll conduct further investigations with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” Santander said.

Although an increase in the shabu supplies is common during the Halloween and “kalag-kalag” seasons, Santander said a kilogram of shabu being sold in a single transaction is “never normal.”

“Imagine how many people would have their minds damaged with this amount of shabu?” the police official said.

It was the second largest amount of shabu confiscated in Cebu this year, following the seizure of P24 million worth of the drug from a woman in San Remigio last May.

During the operation, a motorbike-riding poseur-buyer handed “boodle money” worth P400,000 to Ermitanio. The pack of shabu was on the ground. (Boodle money consists of wads of paper topped by genuine bills.)

Ermitanio suddenly noticed that the money in his hands contained digitally manipulated bills in between, so he ran. He had no idea a van driven by police officers was waiting for him on the other side of the street.

The Dangerous Drugs Board set the value of shabu at P11,800 per gram.

If convicted of this offense, Ermitanio may not be released from detention until 20 to 40 years later, since the illegal drugs seized from him went beyond five grams.

Documents are being prepared so that a complaint for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act will be filed against Ermitanio tomorrow.