Is the Philippines a narco-state?



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.


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  1. mabait na pinoy on

    PDU30 and Gen. Bato are very serious in fighting the drug trade in the Philippines and as the public have noticed lately, these two leaders have expressed their frustrations in fighting this difficult war and to compound their difficulties, foreign leaders such as U.S. and E.U. are criticizing or accusing DU30 of human rights violation and Extra Judicial Killings. Yes indeed! Philippines is a “narco state” by any definition and the previous administrations did not deal with Drug problems in the Country and almost got out of control. Majority of the Filipinos are in favor of what is PDU30 is doing, and hopefully, PDU30 and Gen. Bato will succeed.

  2. Maribel A. Calanda on

    Before I comment on your writing, allow me first to acknowledge that Ka Blas Ople is the best Labor Minister or Secretary this country has ever had. I cried really when he passed away because as an employee, he and his boss. the great President Marcos made the 13th month pay into law. I am one of the beneficiaries of that good law issued by President Marcos in 1975. Now after more than 4 decades, my children are the beneficiaries and surely my grandchildren would be next in their time. This is a law that provides joy and security every Christmas season to each and every Filipino worker and employee. This is even a law that would extend to future generations. Ka Blas gave us too the Labor Code. President Marcos is really an intelligent man because he chose Ka Blas to be part of his Cabinet despite his humble beginnings as a man. Yes, we are now a narco-state and I support the president’s action to stop illegal drugs in this country which has proliferated 30 years after Marcos is gone.

  3. If it is okay with you to have drug addicts roam the city streets, if it is okay with for govt officials to be aiding and abetting drug distributors to conduct their business in their constituencies, if it is okay with you for drug-addled criminals to rape infants and young children, then I guess no the Philippines is not a narco state.

  4. jose b taganahan on

    In a testimony in one of the Senate hearings on the war against drugs, a senior Police Office admitted that the drug trade will not flourish in any part of the country without the protection of corrupt police officers and some military personally who accepted drug money and acted as protectors of drug lords and drug pushers. Some even became drug dealers themselves. So If President Duterte and PNP Chief dela Rosa are really serious in this anti drug campaign, They should form a special death squad to go after and kill those drug lords, drug dealers, drug pushers and most specially those police and military protectors of drug lords starting from the list that President Duterte have.

    • mabait ako talaga on

      Special Death Squads in all regions have been formed way before PDU30 was sworn in as the President. What do you think of those motorcycle riding in tandem going around shooting drug pusher suspects? None of them have been caught and identified, as of yet. Every time they go out to work, they get their instructions from a very high government agency and their lips are tight after receiving their mission order. Nothing can make them reveal what their job are and they normally respond this way.. “Mission: Top Secret Destination: Unknown”.