Drug deals are not only being done in malls but also in select fastfood outlets where security is lax, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Arturo Cacdac admitted on Wednesday.
Cacdac, while confirming a report by The Manila Times about the new modus operandi by drug dealers where drug payoffs are done in shopping malls, said suspects even engage in quick exchanges in parking lots and small cubicles.
“Illegal drug transactions are actually happening in food courts because the place is bustling with people and activity, being a common area for dining. Whereas in the parking area and comfort rooms, illegal drugs can be exchanged discreetly inside vehicles and cubicles,” Cacdac said.
He likewise confirmed a string of buy-bust operations where suspected pushers were caught red-handed selling methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu inside these busy establishments.
“This should be an eye opener for all security agencies that are handling shopping malls.
They should tighten measures to detect illegal drugs through the use of drug-sniffing dogs and gun searches without compromising our operations and most importantly, the safety of the shopping public,” the PDEA chief said.
He added that some drug pushers conduct their illegal trade inside the malls believing that no law enforcement authorities would try to apprehend them due to strict rules against the carrying firearms in these places.
In a telephone interview with the Times, PDEA Public Information Office chief Derrick Carreon said a similar sting operation carried out by agents two weeks ago revealed a resurgence of drug deals in malls.
“Very convenient para sa kanila [drug pushers]because they feel safe inside malls because firearms are banned in the premises,” Carreon said.
Mall security is tight on guns but lax when it comes to other banned items such as illegal drugs. For one, security guards are not trained to detect and apprehend drug couriers, and there are no drug-sniffing dogs deployed in almost all malls.
Drug traffickers used to close their deals in casinos where they also launder drug money by passing them on as “chips.” This practice, however, was exposed after PDEA arrested a drug suspect inside the Resorts World Casino in Pasay City last year.
Casino operators has since posted drug-sniffing dogs in entrances.