Have we truly become a full-blown narco state? Philstar

Have we truly become a full-blown narco state? Featured

Have we truly become a full-blown narco state?

OR is this not a rhetorical question?

There are not too many narco states in the world, and there isn’t one to be envied by others. A short list begins with Afghanistan, which produces 90 percent of the world’s opium. Followed by Burma (Myanmar), whose opium king used to control three-fourths of the world’s supply of heroin. Then Mexico; 7,000 have been killed since 2008, and the leader of the Sineloa cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has become, according to Forbes magazine, the 701st richest man in the world with $1 billion. Then Colombia, the world’s top producer of cocaine; then Peru, which follows Colombia in cocaine; then Bolivia, which follows Peru. Then the Bahamas, which acts as the cocaine transshipment point from Colombia to the US. Here, the narco king runs his business from jail.

We are not listed anywhere, despite the fact that President Rodrigo Duterte’s year-long war on drugs has already killed 8,000 or more, and 605 kilograms of shabu worth P6.4 billion is now smuggled through customs in broad daylight, using the “green lane.” Nor do we have a narco king remotely resembling the Burmese KhunSa, Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, Mexico’s “El Chapo” Guzman or the Bahamas’ Carlos Lehder.

The hideous 605-kg, P6.4 billion “shabu” smuggling from China suggests that the bigger part of the cargo (2,160 kg), released without customs inspection, may have contained the same stuff (worth P22.5 billion), and that the Bureau of Customs’ “green lane” may have been used for smuggling dangerous drugs for sometime now. This seems to be the best index of what we have become. We cannot pretend to believe otherwise, unless we want to be delusional.

All claims to the contrary notwithstanding, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats are in cahoots with the illegal drug dealers, a good number of the nation’s 105 million people are addicted, and China, whose avowed benevolence DU30 has embraced, seems eager to provide inexhaustible supply. So, while DU30 vows to kill every unshod drug pusher or user, the bigtime illegal drugs business goes on at the very heart of the nation, unmindful of the corpses piling up in the ghettos and the slums.


The war on drugs

DU30 began his six-year term in 2016 by warning against the possibility of the Philippines becoming a narco state, if he did not launch his war on drugs. So, he launched his brutal war. Honest citizens supported this war, though not the killings and DU30’s relentless threat to “kill, kill, kill.” On July 7, 2016, one week after he assumed office, he named the country’s supposedly three biggest drug lords, said to be members of the Chinese triad, and allegedly protected by a powerful police general.

He identified them as Wun Tan, also known as “Tatay Co,” Peter Lim aka “Tiger Balm,” and Herbert Colangco, a convict said to be operating from inside the New Bilibid Prison—all allegedly protected by retired Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr., who vehemently denied the accusation.

DU30 then began publicly listing names of individuals allegedly involved in drugs. He unleashed the Philippine National Police under Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa and masked “vigilantes” on all suspected pushers and users. And he denounced as “sons of bitches” then-US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, unnamed leaders of the European Union, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Agnes Callamard, and others for criticizing the “extra-judicial killings” which had become the defining program of his presidency.

DU30 and Bato appeared to relish the bloodletting, for which the policemen and “vigilantes” were reportedly given “kill quotas” and reward money for every suspect killed. Within one year, the war was reported to have killed some 8,000 suspects, without documentation or due process, raising an international human rights storm, which includes an accusation of “crimes against humanity” and “mass murder” against DU30 before the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and sharp denunciations from the US State Department and the European Union, among others.

No big haul of illegal drugs, no busting of any sizeable drug laboratories, no arrest of any bigtime drug lords were ever reported. Most of the victims belonged to the class of “social rejects” whose births, in Eliot’s words, “are unwelcome,” whose death is “unmentioned in the Times.” So far only three notable suspects had been killed in the most bizarre circumstances.


Some mentionables

On November 5, 2016, Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, who had earlier turned himself in after having been tagged as a drug suspect, was killed at four o’clock in the morning inside his detention cell at the Baybay, Leyte subprovincial jail by a police strike team that had motored for hours from Tacloban, allegedly to serve him a search warrant. The National Bureau of Investigation saw this as a plain “rubout,” but the raiding party said it was a “shootout”, and DU30 agreed with the police, and Superintendent Marvin Marcos, the leader of the raiding party, will now be promoted to the next higher rank.

On January 19, 2017, it became publicly known that sometime in October some rogue policemen abducted Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, an alleged drug suspect, for a P5 million ransom, drove him to the PNP compound at Camp Crame, where he was strangled to death inside his car.

This raised a strong statement from the South Korean government, but the sensation quickly died down.

On July 30, 2017, a Sunday, Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife and 13 others, mostly relatives and friends, were massacred inside their three residences at 2.30 a.m. on the suspicion of their alleged drug dealing. The raiding party claimed they were met with gunfire from inside the residences under siege, a claim denied by the lawyer of the slain mayor. Reports from the city have since claimed that the raiding party included hired gunmen from Isabel, Leyte, hiding behind masks.

The drug war was temporarily overshadowed by DU30’s war on the Islamic State (IS)-aligned Maute terror group, which attacked the Islamic city of Marawi on May 23, prompting DU30 to proclaim martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for 90 days in the whole of Mindanao. The constitutionality of Proclamation 216, issued in Moscow where DU30 was visiting at the time, was challenged before the Supreme Court, but DU30 prevailed. Upon its expiration on Juy22, Congress extended the proclamation until December 31, 2017.


Back to the drug war

With the successful military operations against the Mautes in Marawi, and the apparent collapse of the IS structure in Syria and Iraq, the war of drugs shot back to prominence upon the discovery of a P6.4 billion illegal drug shipment from Xiamen, which had gone through the “green lane.” Despite the gravity of the case, for which Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon should be held directly accountable, DU30 expressed full confidence in the former Philippine Marines captain, who had participated in the military mutiny against then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2003. Now Chairman Robert Barbers of the House committee on dangerous drugs, a Mindanao politician, has asked DU30 to fire Faeldon for corruption and incompetence.

This is something DU30 may not blithely ignore. Analysts close to this issue, however, believe Faeldon may be in possession of certain sensitive information, which makes it hard for DU30 to get rid of him, unless he volunteers to step down. Amid the apparent efforts of some quarters to link DU30’s son Paolo, the vice mayor of Davao City, to the dangerous drugs shipment from Xiamen, Faeldon has not said one word clearing him of any suspicion. If Faeldon knows Paolo is not at all involved in any monkey business at the pier, shouldn’t he have come to his defense after the customs broker Mark Taguba mentioned his name, quoting wild rumors, in a congressional hearing? He did not.


Who is this Kenneth Dong?

The problem is, a photo has surfaced in the social media showing Paolo in a friendly pose with Kenneth Dong, the alleged middleman in the illegal P6.4 billion drug shipment. And some people are giving undue importance to it. No one is saying the young man has any fascination for any narco king—whether it be Burma’s late opium king Khun Sa, or Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, or Mexico’s Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. But by linking him to Kenneth Dong and the rest of his narco chain, his enemies clearly want to show his guilt by association.

Since he came to power, DU30 has had to deal with various problems. This is one problem he probably never expected to deal with though. This is why he says if anyone could show him an affidavit, a sworn statement, implicating his son in any shady deal, he would quit the presidency. This statement is understandable, but I hope it does not come to that. Still, until a much bigger problem arises, this seems to be DU30’s biggest problem for now.

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