AS we uncover more details about the illegal drugs trade in the Philippines, the question of whether our country is a narco-state is now on everyone’s mind.
Wikipedia describes a narco-state as “a political and economic term applied to states where policies are seen to collude and cooperate with the illegal drug trade.” Narco-statehood requires an extraordinary amount of corruption to guarantee the ease of doing business, making the illegal drugs such as “shabu” a hidden part of our sachet economy.
I believe that there are pockets in the country that resemble a narco-state, and the number of Filipinos sent abroad as drug couriers point to an organized and well-funded effort to expand the tentacles of these drug syndicates to as many borders as possible. We are a major transshipment point for drugs, and “shabu” laboratories exist and are supported by a growing population of addicted users.
A Muslim mother once told me that sachets of shabu could easily be bought from sari-sari stores in Sulu and other parts of Mindanao. She said that this has brought fear to her community because of the rising incidence of crime such as rapes and unsolved murders. Her daughter is only 15 years old and she worries about her child’s safety all the time.
Kerwin Espinosa, in his testimony before the Senate, admitted that he earned millions from the illegal drugs entrusted to him on consignment. His main suppliers of “shabu,” also known as the “poor man’s cocaine,” were Chinese drug lords and a mysterious woman known as “Lovely Adam Impal” whom Kerwin referred to as the primary source of illegal drugs. In 2004, he started dealing drugs with three sachets of 0.8 grams of “shabu”, then increased that to 15 grams. Ironically, he grew his business while under detention in 2005, with the country’s biggest drug suppliers as his mentors.
A barangay councilor transported Kerwin’s drugs from Matnog to Ormoc. The son of slain Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. said that the drugs would be hidden in the spare tire of the vehicle that was used or inside towels or luggage. Kerwin also mentioned the local police personnel who received weekly pay-offs in exchange for advance information on drug raids.
Espinosa said some local policemen were engaged in the illegal drug trade as well. “Kapag naubos ang supply ng shabu ng pulis at mayroon ako, binibigyan ko sila. Kung ako naman ang naubusan, sila naman ang nagbibigay sa akin ng shabu kung mayroon sila.” (“If the police ran out of shabu, I would give them some. If my supply runs out, they would provide me with ‘shabu’ if they had some.”)
The amounts that came out of the millennial drug lord’s mouth were staggering: P8,000 weekly for the team leader of a police checkpoint for his cargo to pass by; P15,000 a week for the chief of police of Albuera; P300,000 a month to a police regional director who earned more than a general who allegedly received P100,000 a month from Espinosa.
It was Kerwin who testified before the Senate that he gave millions of pesos to Ronnie Dayan, the bodyguard and live-in partner of then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. The money, Espinosa said, was meant to buy protection while also helping the feisty and highly influential justice secretary with her campaign preparations. De Lima, who is now a senator and a member of the majority bloc in the Senate, has repeatedly denied these allegations.
When then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte ran on a campaign platform that focused on the eradication of illegal drugs, the people found a rallying point, a person who understood that the illegal drugs trade was indeed destroying the country from within. The political and business elite, including incumbent local officials and media owners, dismissed Duterte because they could not identify with him and his anti-drugs crusade. But the “masa” did, because they knew how bad the drug problem was. Their lives were threatened on a daily basis because of it.
The liberation of the Philippines from the clutches of drug traffickers and their corrupt cohorts must be carried out, from law enforcement to prosecution, and most importantly, through preventive education and sound rehabilitation programs. We heard the mind-boggling testimony of only one guy, and someone in his 30s at that–can you imagine the kind of dreadful details that a more senior and sophisticated drug lord can tell us? How high up does the payola money go?
There should be no let-up in the efforts of the House and the Senate in exposing the illegal drugs trade in this country. It was the long stretch of silence that brought tremendous wealth and power to these narco-traffickers. Exposing these drug lords to the harsh light of public scrutiny and the rule of law will stop us from becoming Asia’s “shabu” capital.