Drug trafficking remains a major problem under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who marks his first year in office on Thursday.
According to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, “The Philippines continues to face challenges in the areas of drug production, drug trafficking, and internal drug consumption.”
“The primary drug threat faced by the Philippines continues to be the importation, manufacture, and abuse of methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as “shabu” in the Philippines,” according to the report.
The report was released by US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in March this year, the same month that three Filipino “drug mules” or drug couriers were executed in China.
The three Filipinos were Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, and Elizabeth Batain who were executed on March 30 this year.
Earlier this year, the Aquino ordered the Philippine Department of Justice to determine how Philippine airports failed to detect the contraband that the three Filipinos brought to China in 2008.
The three Filipinos — Credo, 42; Batain, 38; and Ordinario-Villanueva, 32 — were originally scheduled to be executed last February 20 and 21.
The executions were put on hold following the humanitarian visit to Beijing of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns.
The Supreme People’s Court of China affirmed the death sentences on the three last February 11. Binay went to Beijing upon orders from President Benigno Aquino III on Feb. 18.
Ordinario-Villanueva was convicted for smuggling 4,110 grams of heroin on Dec. 24, 2008 into Xiamen, while Credo was convicted for smuggling 4,113 grams of heroin on Dec. 28, 2008 in Xiamen. Batain, meanwhile, was convicted for smuggling 6,800 grams of heroin on May 24, 2008, in Shenzhen.
Under the Chinese criminal code, smuggling of 50 grams of heroin or any narcotic drug into China is punishable by death.
Anti-drug mule bill
On the same day three Filipinos convicted of drug trafficking in China were executed through lethal injection. in March this year, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo also filed the Anti-Drug Mule Bill (House Bill 4503),
“This scheme preys on the vulnerability of many of our poverty-stricken countrymen, mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and, like cancer, attaches itself to their hopes of earning enough to return to their families only to lead them to their deaths and destruction,” Quimbo said in a statement.
The measure seeks to include the use or attempt to use drug mules as one of the punishable acts under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9165).
The bill defines a drug mule as “a person used by another person, with or without the former’s consent or knowledge, to transport dangerous drugs, of whatever amount and nature, from or through the Philippines to other countries, foreign states, foreign territories or foreign jurisdictions.”
If passed into law, a person who “shall use, attempt to use or conspire with any other person to use drug mules” will be penalized with life imprisonment and a fine ranging from P5 million to P25 million.
Drug smuggling continues
According to the US report, “Despite the success of enforcement efforts against the domestic methamphetamine laboratories, high grade methamphetamine produced in other countries continues to be smuggled into the Philippines by transnational drug traffickers.”
The report noted that in 2010, “the majority of the seized methamphetamine in the Philippines appeared to have been of foreign origin.”
“Although methamphetamine remains the primary drug of choice in the Philippines, marijuana is the second-most abused drug. In addition, many drug users have shifted to using inhalants, the third most commonly abused substance,” the report said.
According to the report, numerous arrests in South America and Asia in 2010 showed an increasing trend of Philippine citizens acting as drug couriers.
“It appears that these couriers were employed by international drug syndicates, and typically carried drugs from South America to Asia – although the drugs were generally not destined for the Philippines. As of August 2010, 626 Filipinos had been arrested for drug trafficking offenses in other countries.”
“During 2010, lack of judicial reform and slow progress in drug cases continued a trend of very low conviction rates for drug cases. The government recognized problems with the judicial sector and is considering several reforms. The Philippines is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention,” the report noted.
Pursuing drug traffickers
The US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs noted that the Philippine government takes drug trafficking and drug abuse seriously.
However, the bureau noted that “lack of law enforcement resources, the slow pace of judicial and investigative reform, together with a lack of interagency cooperation continue to hamper government efforts to investigate and prosecute higher echelons of drug trafficking organizations operating in the Philippines.”
“However, despite these resource and institutional limitations, Philippine law enforcement agencies continue to pursue drug traffickers aggressively. This effort, together with drug education and rehabilitation initiatives, has led to positive results in reducing drug abuse and drug trafficking in the Philippines,” the report said.
The bureau said if the Philippines were to increase its “cooperation and coordination among Philippine drug law enforcement agencies such as PDEA and PNP at the national level, through multi-agency initiatives that can draw on different agencies’ strengths and resources, it would have a very positive impact on enforcement effectiveness.”
“One specific example of a program that might bring big dividends is an airport-focused interagency program to counter drug couriers transiting Philippine airports, and to detect and deter persons going abroad to act as drug couriers,” the report concluded.
Statistics on drug-related cases
Citing statistics from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on February 15 this year, GMA News Research data on drug-related cases involving Filipinos in Asia noted that:
- Of the 302 drug-related cases involving Filipinos in Asia, majority of the cases are in China (205 cases); Hong Kong (26); and Malaysia (17);
- 221 of the cases involve female victims;
- majority of the cases involve Filipinos who have been lured to act as “drug mules” by international drug syndicates;
- among the drug-related cases involving Filipinos in China; 3 have been meted the death penalty without reprieve; 72 have been meted the death penalty with two-year reprieve; 35 have been sentenced to life imprisonment; 68 have been sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment; and 27 cases are still pending.
– Veronica Pulumbarit, GMA News