ABOUT P4.6 million and an estimated P1 million worth of shabu were confiscated from inmates of the Cebu City and provincial jails before dawn yesterday.
It was the biggest haul from an Oplan Galugad or Greyhound Operation inside the two facilities. It also proved a former inmate’s tip that drug users were posing as visitors, in order to buy and use illegal drugs behind bars.
“Ginagawa na nilang tiangge at drug den ang kulungan kasi yung mga dumadalaw nagkukunwaring bisita pero dito na sila gumagamit kasi natatakot sila sa labas dahil dun sa Operation Tokhang (They have turned the jails into a one-stop-shop and a drug den. Some junkies posed as visitors in order to use shabu inside, because they were afraid of the Tokhang operations outside),” Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Noli Taliño said.
The operation was conducted by the PRO 7, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) 7, and the Coast Guard.
Regional Director Yogi Ruiz of the PDEA 7 said the amount of shabu inside the jails was alarming.
“Mas daghan og supply sa shabu diri sa sulod. It is very evident sa makita nato nga ebidensiya (The supply of shabu inside is higher than it is outside. It is evident),” Ruiz said.
“They lack security,” he added.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III thanked the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) and PDEA for helping the Capitol fight illegal drugs, following the search that yielded drugs and unauthorized gadgets like cell phones and portable WiFi devices.
“Kining mga nakuha nga drogas lakip sa ubang gamit og mga kontrabando gapakita sa atong ka seryoso pagpuhag sa tanang binuang diha sa sulod (The confiscation of these drugs and other contraband shows how serious we are about stopping these shenanigans in prison),” the governor said in a text message.
Davide said there would be other operations to rid the provincial jail of illegal items and halt illicit activities there.
Cebu City Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella ordered the warden of the Cebu City Jail to explain why the contraband were in the facility.
“I was shocked to learn about the volume of drugs and drug paraphernalia confiscated. We will ask the city warden for a report or explanation on the presence of those items. Considering the number of confiscated items, they should submit an explanation,” he said.
Last July, Antonio (real name withheld), a newly released inmate of the Cebu City Jail, told the police that users visited makeshift rooms in prison where they could use illegal drugs.
At 1 a.m. yesterday, 307 officers from the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) and Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) 7 arrived in full battle gear. They were joined by 20 BJMP personnel, 35 PDEA agents and the Coast Guard, who brought 3 trained dogs with them.
The 3,089 inmates of the City Jail were still groggy with sleep when they were ordered to take off their clothes to make sure they hadn’t concealed any weapons.
During the inspection, the teams found items that were not allowed inside the jail, like laptops, flat-screen TVs, cellular phones, branded shoes, bundles of cash, and five pails full of P5 and P10 coins.
But according to Remil Lequin, assistant commander of the jail’s cooperative called Batang Cebu 45 Organization, the money was from seven years of saving their earnings from their canteen.
He said that the coop used these earnings to support inmates who were about to be transferred to Muntinlupa, or to help those whose wives were about to give birth.
“Dinha mi magkuha para hatag (We drew from those savings to help fellow inmates),” Lequin said.
He added he was willing to be investigated by any police station, to prove he had no connection to illegal drugs.
Shabu that weighed 88 grams was confiscated in a room beside Lequin’s.
PRO Deputy Regional Director for Operations Rey Lyndon Lawas said that the information from Antonio persuaded them that the rumors about drug dens inside the jails were true.
Lawas said that according to the information, the illegal drug trade behind bars depended on who among the jail guards was on duty.
There are 36 brigades in the City Jail that allegedly pay P3,000 to a high official in the City Jail every week so that the illegal drug trade can keep running.
Chief Supt. Allan Iral, regional director of the BJMP 7, said that Warden Johnson Calub will be relieved from his position and more than 130 jail personnel will face an investigation.
Four jail guards who were confirmed to have allowed the contraband inside the jail have been referred to the BJMP.
Calub said he welcomed the transfer.
“During my administration, I did not really make an assurance that the illegal drugs in the jail will be eradicated considering that there are many ways that it can get in,” Calub told reporters.
He lamented that the facility was designed for only 600 inmates, but now houses more than 3,000.
Calub cited three recommendations: giving the city an ideal jail facility; preventing physical contact between the inmates and their visitors; and the designation of one official who will oversee the country’s prison system.
Yesterday’s search lasted for five hours.
Even if the city jail warden was relieved, Labella said he should still submit an explanation addressed to Mayor Tomas Osmeña, with copies for the City Council.
The acting mayor commended the agencies that conducted the successful operation.
Labella said the confiscations showed an urgent need to reconvene the Police Coordinating and Advisory Council (PCAC).
They used to meet once a week to discuss how to improve peace and order. Labella used to preside over the PCAC during the previous administration.
However, he said the group has not convened in five months, since several City Hall officials served their suspension during their previous term over the release of calamity assistance in 2013.
“I would suggest to the mayor to reconvene the PCAC, which was created through an ordinance,” he said.