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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILLEGAL drug operations may have shifted to Iloilo province following the decline and operations and apprehensions of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Iloilo City.

Paul Ledesma, officer-in-charge of PDEA-6 office, said they reported fewer anti-drug operations and arrests in Iloilo City because of the declining illegal drugs trade in the metropolis.

As of November this year, PDEA mounted 67 anti-drug operations in Iloilo City compared to 113 in 2008.

The number of arrested drug pushers and users also declined to 82 this year from 322 in 2008.

Ledesma said drug syndicates may have shifted their operations to Iloilo province following the series of anti-drug operations in the metropolis.

“The situation in the city became too hot for these syndicates to handle and may have transferred to other places. We continue to monitor their activities wherever they transfer their operations,” Ledesma said.

The PDEA also noticed increased sales of marijuana due to increasing prices of shabu.

Ledesma said the shabu price hike is a result of their operations against the entry of shabu in Western Visayas.

Shabu is now being sold at P10,000 per gram, lower than last year’s price of P15,000 per gram. Marijuana is sold for P40-45 per gram.

Ledesma said they have neutralized 11 of 23 drug dens in the region aside from arresting members of five drug syndicates in Western Visayas.

The PDEA chief said they will intensify their operations to prevent drugs from flooding the region during Christmas season and Dinagyang and Ati-Atihan festivals.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) turned on human rights groups who are against the random drug testing on students.

Paul Ledesma, PDEA-6 director, questioned why human rights groups are opposing drug tests in schools when these cannot be considered violations of human rights.

Ledesma said the proliferation of illegal drugs is a threat to national security which must be confronted with resolve.

“One of the solutions is to conduct random drug tests in schools to prevent the youth from using illegal drugs. The young people are the main target of drug syndicates,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma also urged private institutions and organizations to adopt their internal drug control policy for their own welfare.

The policy will also prevent human rights groups from intervening in random drug tests and other anti-illegal drugs measures of private and public institutions.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and Department of Health (DOH) have started conducting this month random drug tests on students in Region 6.

Dr. Rex Casiple, CHEd regional office officer-in-charge, said random tests began among students in Aklan and Antique provinces since October 16.

This week, CHEd-DOH teams conducting the tests would be in Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Capiz and Guimaras.

Health and education officials would conduct the testing in 64 schools in Western Visayas – 30 in Panay Island and 34 in Negros Occidental.

Tests were also conducted in five universities in Iloilo City last November 9.

The testing complies with the national government’s directive to heighten the government’s campaign to ensure that all public and private high schools and colleges are drug-free.

The CHEd-DOH teams pick out randomly 10 students from each school from the list of students prepared by school officials. Those tagged for the tests were required to get their parents’ written permission.

The test results are confidential and the results would be forwarded to the CHEd’s national office.

Latest data from PDEA show that 150,000 persons are using illegal drugs in Western Visayas out of the 6.7 million users in the country. (With reports from Bombo Radyo-Iloilo)

PDEA warns bizmen on undiluted product

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will crackdown on manufacturers, distributors and retailers who fail to dilute their toluene-based contact cement, popularly known as “rugby.

In an interview with Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, Paul Ledesma, PDEA regional director, said rugby sans the 5% mustard oil is now classified a dangerous drug.

“This pursuant to Board Regulation No. 6-2007 of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) due to the prevalent use of rugby as one of the top abused drugs in the country. This regulation covers all importers, manufacturers, distributors, sellers, and handlers of the adhesive,” Ledesma said.

Toluene is also included in the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Cheap and available even in sari-sari stores, rugby has toluene which attracts drug users for its aromatic and addictive properties.

The DDB said there are more than 357 contact cement abusers confined in government and private rehabilitation centers nationwide, with the youngest at 9 years old.

Shabu, marijuana and inhalants, particularly contact cement are the top three abused drugs in the country, according to the 2004 National Household Survey and 2007 rehabilitation facility-based studies conducted by the DDB.

The DDB said habitual users of toluene-based contact cement will suffer brain damage, kidney and liver failure, sight and hearing loss, muscle weakness, leukemia, and death.

Mustard oil is a colorless to pale yellow pungent irritating oil that is obtained by distillation from the seeds, usually of black mustard, after expression of the fatty oil and maceration with water, or through chemical synthesis. It consists largely of allyl isothiocyanate, a volatile compound with a characteristic of pungent odor capable of inducing eye tears

Ledesma said mustard oil dampens toluene’s attractive smell making the contact cement pungent and less desirable to abusers.

“The 5% mustard oil will discourage rugby users from sniffing the contact cement and similar products,” Ledesma said.

The DDB regulation said “the obnoxious odor of the contact cement with at least 5% mustard oil shall be present and maintained from the time of manufacture or importation of the product until the same is utilized by the end-user, and/or the volatility of the mustard oil shall be less than that of the toluene content of the product.”

Ledesma said they will begin the crackdown after they observed that some hardware stores are still selling undiluted rugby.

Atty. Ronnie Delicana, PDEA-6 legal officer, said PDEA can conduct test buys on stores suspected of selling undiluted rugby.

Under the DDB regulation, all contact cement manufacturers who want to be exempted must secure a permit from PDEA.

Manufactures who will violate the regulation will be charged with violations of Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) which has penalties ranging from life imprisonment to death, and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million.

The regulation also orders manufacturers to place the 5% mustard oil additive on product labels, cartons and containers.

“We will be conducting random checks on hardware stores and other establishments selling toluene-based contact cement to find out if they are following the law. Anyway, we have informed them of the new regulation the past two years,” Ledesma said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE relief of a controversial police official in Iloilo City is being linked to the death of an anti-drug agent in 2007.

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, said he received reports that the death of PO1 Frederick Capasao may have something to do with the transfer of C/Insp. Musa Amiyong from Iloilo City to Camp Crame.

Cuevas said Amiyong and several police officers were investigated relative to Capasao’s slay almost two years ago.

“Nothing came out of that investigation as no charges were filed against Amiyong in relation to Capasao’s death,” Cuevas said.

Capasao was formerly assigned with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and was responsible for the arrest of some drug personalities when he was still alive.

Capasao was preparing to report to Camp Crame when an unidentified gunman riddled him with bullets while entering their house in LaPaz in the evening of October 23, 2007.

During an investigation conducted by the House committee on dangerous drugs last March, a confidential PNP intelligence report surfaced and pointed to unnamed police officers as the suspects in Capasao’s killing.

When asked if the Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force recommended Amiyong’s relief, Cuevas said he was unsure because he only received the relief order from Camp Crame Wednesday morning.

Cuevas said he even called Amiyong and told the latter to immediately report to the national command lest he will be marked absent without official leave.

“With his relief, C/Insp. Amiyong will be given the chance to defend himself from any charges or case,” Cuevas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MORE than a kilo of dried marijuana leaves was seized by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) members in two separate operations in the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod over the weekend.

PDEA agents recovered some 1.5 kilos of marijuana leaves from suspected pushers Charlito Fantilanan, 23, of Dumalag, Capiz and Rey Ceballos of Delgado-Mabolo, Iloilo City in a buy-bust operation at Brgy. Mabolo-Delgado.

PDEA OIC-head Paul Ledesma said the duo’s buyers were mostly students since the village is surrounded by several universities and colleges.

Pantilanan said a person delivered the marijuana leaves to them but he refused to name the courier.

In Bacolod City, the PDEA also collared Leveo Pericon, 58, of Brgy. Estefania. Recovered from his possession were 31 sticks of dried marijuana leaves and illegal drug paraphernalia.

Ledesma said the arrested suspects in the twin operations were tagged by suspected pushers who were nabbed in previous anti-drug drives in the region.

Meanwhile, PDEA said four major illegal drug syndicates are operating in Iloilo City.

Ledesma said these groups are based in Brgys. Boulevard and Habog-Habog, Molo; Malipayon and Tanza Esperanza, Iloilo City proper; Bakhaw in Mandurriao; and another in Veterans Village in Iloilo City proper.

These villages were also classified by PDEA as heavily affected by the illegal drug trade.

Ledesma said their sustained operations against the illegal drug trade forced pushers to be very careful and stay in their bases of operations. Drug users also avoided going to the four villages lest they will be arrested.

“Instead, they are employing runners who will transport their illegal trade which dents the pusher’s income,” he added.

Amiyong twits solon on illegal drugs yarn

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE chief intelligence officer of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) is willing to lose his job if his detractors can prove that he is peddling illegal drugs.

 

Chief Inspector Musa Amiyong, ICPO intelligence section (S2) head, said he is challenging his critics to show proof that he is a rogue cop in cahoots with drug syndicates.

 

Amiyong in particular dared Iloilo 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. to buttress the intelligence report linking the former to the illegal drugs trade.

 

“They have an intelligence report then he should prove it. If they have proof, they can charge and have me removed from the service. I am willing to face that if they have sufficient evidence,” Amiyong said.

 

The intelligence report tagged Amiyong in the illegal drugs trade in the municipality of Estancia which is part of Tupas’ district.

 

Amiyong also dared Tupas to pinpoint the drug lords and pushers he is dealing with.

 

“If I am indeed into illegal drugs, I cannot just get shabu from Estancia, throw them to the ground and let drug addicts pick them up. They must prove that I have associates in this alleged illicit business,” Amiyong added.

 

The ICPO-S2 chief also threw the same challenge to his detractors who linked him to the slaying of PO2 Frederick Capasao two years ago.

 

Capasao, who was detailed to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, was shot to death in front of their house reportedly because of his campaign against illegal drugs.

 

Tupas revealed during the congressional hearing on the Balasan Boys controversy two weeks ago an intelligence report linking a chief inspector and three other police officers to Capasao’s murder.

 

But the congressman did not name the persons in the report which came from the Regional Intelligence Division (RID) of the Police Regional Office-6 based in Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City.

 

Amiyong said the PNP should investigate how a confidential intelligence report got into the hands of individuals outside of the PNP.

 

“In the first place, how did it get out of RID? Maybe Rep. Tupas has his own sources reason why he got hold of the document,” Amiyong said.

 

M16 RIFLE VS THIEVES

 

Amiyong also clarified reports that he requested M16 Armalite rifles which they will use to neutralize robbers and thieves preying on Iloilo City.

 

Amiyong said the issue cropped up after he borrowed M16 rifles from the ICPO armory for their operation Monday against a robbery group planning to hit a business establishment in the city.

 

“We borrowed the rifles because the suspects have high-powered firearms while the police only have pistols. We are not allowed to carry M16 because of the one officer-one firearm policy,” he said.

 

Amiyong said he later requested Senior Supt. Melvin Mongcal, ICPO director, to ask Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. to buy more M16 rifles for the ICPO.

 

Mongcal said he tasked Amiyong to lead a team that will collar thieves and hired killers in the city.

 

“The M16 rifles were issued to the team on activity basis. In fact, we were able to foil an attempt to rob another business establishment because of that operation. Chief Insp. Amiyong has not slept because of their follow operations,” Mongcal said.

 

The ICPO intelligence section under Amiyong’s charge has been criticized for failure to preempt the spate of robberies and killings that happened in the city since late last year.

 

Last year, Amiyong was also charged with criminal and administrative raps for shooting two persons whom he allegedly hired to bomb the equipment of a contractor of the Iloilo flood control project. Amiyong had denied the accusations including the alleged bombing of the Korean contractor’s equipment.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) cannot sue the police officers allegedly involved in the death of a police officer who was at the forefront of the anti-illegal drugs campaign in Iloilo City.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said they have no witnesses who can tag four police personnel in the death of PO2 Frederick Capasao more than two years ago.

 

Capasao, who was once assigned at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea), was gunned down in front of their home in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

 

An intelligence report pointed to four police officers – one chief inspector, two police officers 2 and a police officer 1 – of having a hand in Capasao’s death.

 

The report dated February 16, 2008 came from the Regional Intelligence Division headed by Senior Supt. Cornelio Defensor.

 

Cuevas said he read the intelligence report which became the basis of an investigation mounted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

 

“I had the report validated by ordering the CIDG to investigate the case in coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation which was able to get some witnesses,” Cuevas said.

 

But none of the witnesses, Cuevas said, was willing to execute sworn affidavits which can be used as evidence against the four police officers.

 

Even the wife of Capasao, Marisol, was afraid to issue her sworn statement, the PRO-6 chief said.

 

Cuevas said they cannot determine if the four police officers indeed killed Capasao or were just accomplices.

 

Capasao is one of the police officers responsible for the arrest of suspected drug suspect Cairoden Abdullah in 2005.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE tough but soft-spoken head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) used diplomacy to convince suspected drug syndicates in Iloilo City to stop their trade and live through honest means.

 

Pdea director general Dionisio Santiago said alleged drug lords in the city should turn to legitimate businesses instead of selling substances that destroy mostly the youth.

 

Speaking at the sidelines of the congressional hearing on the Balasan Boys issue Friday, Santiago pointed to a certain Prevendido and a certain Odicta as the alleged drug lords in Iloilo City.

 

“It’s common knowledge that these two are being tagged in the illegal drugs trade although it would be hard to arrest them red-handed because they don’t handle the stuff. And Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. has been very vocal against their operations,” Santiago said.

 

Santiago said they learned that these syndicates have diversified to legitimate businesses because of their alleged illicit operations.

 

Kumikita na sila, why don’t they focus on their businesses instead of continuing with their illegal trades,” Santiago averred. 

 

When asked if narco-politics has already encroached Western Visayas, Santiago said they have received reports of government officials getting support from drug lords “but these must be validated again and again because it would be hard to get evidence against them.”

 

“These are just reports, raw information. We have to get evidence. Knowing is different from proving kasi eh,” he added.

 

The Pdea chief said they are proposing some amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Law so they can pry into the resources and bank accounts of suspected drug lords and their associates.

 

“It’s very circuitous just to take a peek into their bank accounts. If only we could relax some regulations without trampling the right to privacy, we can go a long way in our fight against illegal drugs,” Santiago said.

 

Santiago said they are very careful in releasing information on government officials in cahoots with drug syndicate “because we don’t want to be used during the election season.”

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