Charges filed vs carrier of country’s biggest drug haul
Photo during the onsite inquest proceedings from PNP-PIO

Charges filed vs carrier of country’s biggest drug haul

CHARGES have been filed against the driver of the vehicle that yielded billions worth of “high-grade” methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), the biggest drug seizure in the country’s history.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief of the Public Information Office (PIO) Colonel Jean Fajardo said on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, that charges for violation of Section 5, Article II or transportation of illegal drugs under Republic Act (RA) 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2022, was filed against Ajalon Michael Zarate, 47, during an onsite inquest proceeding on Tuesday afternoon, April 16, while the inventory of the confiscated illegal drugs was still then ongoing.

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She said the inventory was completed on Tuesday evening, April 16, 2024, and the seized shabu were turned over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The drug haul totaled 1,424.253 kilograms estimated at P9,684,920,400.

Zarate was detained at the Batangas Police Provincial Office.

Fajardo said charges for violation of Section 31, or illegal use of car plates under RA 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code was also filed against Zarate, noting that aside from illegal drugs, also found inside the vehicle were several fake license plates.

Zarate was arrested on Monday, April 15, in a police checkpoint in Barangay Pinagkrusan, Alitagtag, Batangas.

He was the driver of the vehicle that was found to be full of shabu.

Fajardo said Zarate came from Nasugbu, Batangas and was on his way to Metro Manila.

Fajardo added that prior to the operation, the PNP and PDEA had been receiving intelligence information about the possible transportation of large amounts of illegal drugs in Calabarzon and in adjacent areas.

She echoed the statement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the illegal contraband was not manufactured in the country.

She said they are looking into the possibility that the shabu was brought to the country through the waters off Batangas, noting also the markings in its packaging that show foreign characters far from the usual Chinese tea bags seen in previous drug haul.

“Yun ‘yung isa sa tinitingnan na naging source and origin nitong illegal drugs. Alam naman natin itong Batangas ay malawak ‘yung coastal areas diyan so yan ngayon ‘yung subject ng ating investigation and intelligence build-up,” said Fajardo.

(That's one of things being looked into as source and origin of these illegal drugs. We know that Batangas has vast coastal areas, so that is now the subject of our investigation and intelligence build-up.)

“There are reports being validated by the investigator on case pati na rin ‘yung intel operatives na possibly ay may ginamit na yacht para makuha itong mga illegal drugs but these are all subjects for validation,” she added.

(There are reports being validated by the investigator on case, as well as the intel operatives that a yacht was possibly used to get these illegal drugs but these are all subjects for validation.)

She said investigators are also looking into the possibility that the Philippines is being used as a transshipment point for drug smugglers.

Fajardo said a back-tracking investigation to identify the possible cohorts of Zarate is ongoing.

From July 1, 2022 to April 14, 2024, a total of 86,203 anti-illegal operations were conducted, resulting in the arrest of 108,555 individuals and the confiscation of P22.8 billion worth of illegal drugs of various kinds. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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