LESS than two days of the 12th anniversary of their raid on a huge shabu laboratory in a bodega in Mandaue, the police discovered a much bigger one at the foot of Mt. Arayat in Pampanga. "This is the biggest shabu laboratory discovered not only in Pampanga but in the entire country so far," crowed the Pampanga police chief.

Curiously, not a single person was arrested during yesterday's raid. "They scampered in different directions, the police explained. The lab occupants fled when they saw the raiding team, another police official explained. Hmm.

While the dismantling of a facility built to produce drugs that ruin the lives of people is a laudable accomplishment, the failure to arrest a single suspect is a cause for concern. Could the occupants of the compound have been tipped off of the police operation? If so, by whom?

In the raid in Umapad, Mandaue on September 24, 2004, about a dozen men were arrested by the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. Most of those arrested were Chinese nationals, lending credence to suspicions that the Chinese control the illegal drug manufacturing industry in the Philippines.

Eleven of those arrested have already been convicted. Then Mandaue Regional Trial Court Judge Marilyn Yap sentenced nine foreigners and two Filipinos to a lifetime in prison in a decision that she promulgated on Feb. 23, 2012, roughly eight years after their arrest.

In addition, they were made to pay a fine of P10 million each. A twelfth accused, British national Simon Lao was spared punishment because he testified against his co-accused as a state witness.

The last time I heard, all the eleven convicts have been sent to the Bilibid prisons. Before they were shipped, they were members of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center dance troupe. Lao, however, had a special dance number to himself as his co-accused refused to dance with him.

Incidentally, a friend who is now based abroad confirmed that there is no shabu laboratory inside the Bilibid prison. The drugs are manufactured outside, he told me by mail, under the direction from the inside.

He said he knows this because, although he was not into the illegal drugs trade, some of his friends were and he used to accompany them in their visits to the national penitentiary.

"We did not undergo any security check when we went there," he recalled. "There was someone that we had to look for and when we got there, they were already expecting us."

"I was also inside the kubol (it was more like a house than a kubol) when a couple of Bucor (Bureau of Corrections) officers came in and were given cash."

He also said that he watched some of the inmates gambling. 'The amount of cash they had was just unbelievable. They didn't even count their bets. Tupongon ra nila ang kwarta."

Holy cow!