THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) will wiretap suspected drug traffickers to find out more about the presence of the Sinaloa cartel in the country.
Pdea chief Director General Arturo Cacdac said wiretapping is illegal in the Philippines, but it has become a necessity to counter the entry of drug syndicates which are looking at the Philippines as key hub in an “East-West” network they want to set up
Cacdac said there is a need to immediately pass a law allowing the agency to conduct communications surveillance of suspected drug traffickers.
The PDEA and other counternarcotic agencies must be able to hit the command structure of drug trafficking organizations, he told The Manila Times.
He said the agency is backing the passage of a bill authored by Sen. Gregorio Honasan that seeks to legalize the wiretapping of drug traffickers.
The United States government recently placed the Philippines at the center of its anti-narcotics operation in Asia following reports that notorious drug rings that used to traffic drugs only in the West have found their way to the East through their Chinese associates.
US Ambassador William Brownfield, assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), was credited for the Christmas Day bust of a drug syndicate in Lipa City whose members include those from Sinaloa, the Mexican drug cartel.
Brownfield said the cartel is eyeing the Philippines as a hub in Asia for selling narcotics that have too small a market in the US.
Some 84 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) were seized from a ranch in Lipa City on December 25. Government agents arrested four suspects, including the Chinese contact of the Sinaloa.
Pdea public information office chief Derrick Carreon said that wiretapping should be done on personalities who are suspected to be involved in the drug trade
“Basically it involves intercepting all forms of communication so that we can establish the involvement of personalities who do not directly handle the items but they instead call the shots in the illegal drug industry,” Carreon said.
“I believe the measure was forwarded even before the involvement of Mexicans came to light,” he said.
Besides wiretapping, Cacdac said moves to intensify drug operations include the activation of the National Coast Watch Council, which has been established to implement the National Coast Watch System.
“The system helps address threats such as the entry and transshipment of illegal drugs, terrorism, smuggling and illegal fishing among others. PDEA is also part of the participating agencies in this endeavor,” Cacdac said.
The Pdea wants the Bureau of Customs to be more actively involved in detecting drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals and other contraband materials.
It said there is a need to enhance the x-ray systems and similar facilities in the country’s ports.
In 2012, the Senate approved a bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to conduct wiretapping and surveillance on individuals suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade.
Senate Bill 3341, sponsored by Honasan’s committee on public order and dangerous drugs, was approved on third and final reading.
“The bill addresses the need to further strengthen the campaign against illegal drugs in the country by giving more power to law enforcement agencies to go after dealers, smugglers, financiers, manufacturers and even cultivators of substances declared illegal in Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” Honasan said.
“It will take more than the present methods to address the drug trade which has assumed global proportions and now poses a threat to national security. We need to upgrade our countermeasures against this global menace,” he said.
The bill would allow authorized intercepted conversations as evidence in court and only if it involves the sale, manufacturing, importing and financing of illegal drugs.