A COLOMBIAN drug mule was nabbed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for trying to smuggle P8.8 million worth of 79 pellets of cocaine, the Airport Drug Interdiction Task Group said Tuesday.
Alberto Pedroza Quijano, 67, who swallowed the pellets was arrested last Sunday afternoon at the NAIA terminal 3 following a tip from the United States government that the suspect would be bringing in the illegal drugs into the country.
Joint operatives from the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) accosted Quijano several minutes after he arrived on board Emirates Airline flight EK332 from Dubai.
“He was a frequent traveler from one country to another. That’s why we were able to profile him,” PDEA Central Luzon Director Ismael Fajardo said in a separate press briefing.
He was immediately brought to the Pasay General Hospital where he underwent x-ray medical scanning procedure. Attending hospital staff later found rubber pellets in his stomach.
The task force said it took more than 24 hours before the medical staff got the rubber pellets from the suspect.
The substance later was brought to the PDEA laboratory for examination, while Quijano underwent a drug test.
According to Fajardo, Quijano was not arrested immediately after his arrival because he looked like a “respectable” person. He said Quijano even had an identification card claiming he was part of a respectable institution.
“He looked very respectable if you look at him. You can see that from his clothing and identification card,” Fajardo said.
Based on PDEA’s investigation, Fajardo said it was the third time that Quijano had entered the country. It was also believed that he brought drugs too in his prior visits. Due to the amount of confiscated drugs seized in his possession, he was being suspected of being a part of an international drug syndicate.
A report that Quijano was arrested before in United States for another drug-related case was being verified by the authorities.
According to PDEA, the suspect admitted to his crimes. They said Quijano expressed his frustration of living in poverty due to the terrible state of Colombia’s economy.
PDEA said it would find Quijano’s contact whom the suspect claimed gave him instructions in the airport through phone calls. The authorities are examining Quijano’s phone.
“So now drug users know where their drugs come from. They’re probably enjoying it because of the additional flavor,” Fajardo kidded.
Quijano is detained at PDEA headquarters pending results of the investigation and charges to be filed.
A drug mule or courier is capable of swallowing balloons containing illicit drugs and then transport them across borders, authorities said.
The authorities added that once they (drug mules) have reached their destination, these balloons would be retrieved from the courier’s body.
A drug mule can swallow up to 120 balloons and during their journey, they take medication to inhibit bowel movement. Once they have reached their destination, they are fed laxatives and the balloons pass through their bodies, authorities said.
In December 2015, a Venezuelan drug mule was caught with more than a kilogram of cocaine. Andres Rodriguez, 39, arrived from Abu Dhabi on board a Philippine Airlines PR657. He ingested 92 pellets of cocaine.
Last year, airport authorities made at least 15 arrests against suspected foreign drug couriers.
Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said that they were sending a strong message to drug syndicates that the “law enforcement agencies were joining hands to fight their way to a drug free country in order to provide a safe environment that is conducive for development.”