Philippines' crackdown on drugs: Methamphetamine worth $20.7 million seized; 4 Chinese arrested
Manila, Mar 20: Philippine authorities have seized methamphetamine concealed in tea wrappers and biscuit cans in their second-largest drug haul this year in a sign of how the problem has persisted despite the president's bloody anti-drug crackdown.
Three Chinese nationals and a Chinese-Filipino interpreter were arrested late on Tuesday in "buy-bust" raids in an upscale residential enclave and outside a shopping mall in Alabang village in the Manila metropolis, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino said Wednesday. The drugs with a street value of 1.1 billion pesos (USD 20.7 million) were concealed similarly to seizures in Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar, indicating an international drug syndicate was behind the trafficking, Aquino said.
Last month, anti-narcotics agents raided a house in Tanza town in Cavite province south of Manila and where they killed two suspected Chinese drug dealers in a gunbattle and seized 1.9 billion pesos (USD 36 million) worth of methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant locally known as shabu, Aquino said.
Aquino has called for the return of the death penalty in the Philippines for drug traffickers, better security in the archipelago's extensive coastlines and more extensive databases of foreign drug suspects for the immigration bureau to deter drug trafficking. Corruption also fosters the drug menace, he said.
"There are those who have been detained for drug offenses, for example, in China but they could still enter our country. We have arrested many of those identified foreign offenders here," Aquino told The Associated Press by telephone.
"The Chinese will never stop putting up drug laboratories because, firstly, there is no death penalty, and secondly, they can buy anybody," Aquino said. "They can buy judges, they can buy prosecutors and eventually they can go home safely."
President Rodrigo Duterte has elevated drugs to a national security concern and launched a crackdown that has killed more than 5,000 mostly poor drug suspects in reported clashes with the police since he took office in mid-2016. The killings have alarmed Western governments, UN human rights experts and rights groups and sparked two complaints for crimes against humanity which are being examined by the International Criminal Court.
Duterte's move to withdraw the Philippines from the tribunal supposedly took effect on Sunday, but its prosecutor said she would continue examining the complaints. Duterte has denied condoning extrajudicial killings but has openly threatened drug traffickers with death.
Last week, he drew fresh criticisms when he publicly named 46 government officials, including three congressmen, he alleged were involved in illegal drugs but have not been criminally charged. Critics have warned him against making such public announcements without solid evidence but Duterte said he trusted the government agencies that provided the information. Several of the politicians he named denied they were involved in the drug trade.