MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida said the archipelagic nature of the Philippines has made it impossible for authorities to catch all smugglers of illegal drugs, mainly methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu."
“Unfortunately, our country is an archipelago. This shabu is dumped into the sea and somebody will get them from the high seas and bring them to the coastal areas or the land. We cannot police an archipelago,” Calida said on Tuesday, December 5, on the 3rd and final day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court (SC) on the war on drugs.
Calida added: “There are so many places where they can be transported. It need not pass the Bureau of Customs. (READ: SC Justice Carpio: ‘Why is PNP ignoring big-time drug lords?’)
It was Calida’s answer to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who grilled him on why authorities could not cut the supply chain, in lieu of arresting drug lords who are overseas.
Earlier, Carpio asked Calida why Chinese and Filipino-Chinese drug lords are not being arrested, when the police circular that operationalized the drug war names them as the ones involved in bulk smuggling.
“The big time Chinese drug lords are outside our jurisdiction. They are in China,” Calida replied.
Carpio pointed out to Calida that shabu is in fact smuggled through the Bureau of Customs (BOC), as in the case of the P6.4 billion drug shipment from China that passed through the Manila port in May.
Smuggling at Customs
“I don’t think they have to resort to dumping the goods, the precursors, into the sea. They can easily get out of Customs as we have seen. They don’t have to go to the trouble, if you police the Customs area, you can catch a lot of them already,” Carpio said.
To this, Calida responded: “I cannot answer why there was this alleged importation of drugs. Tt’s still under investigation.I
The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier charged alleged middlemen in connection with multbillion-peso shabu shipment, but dropped cases against Customs officials including former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
The DOJ panel it was forced to drop the case against Faeldon because the complaint filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency lacked evidence. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said the DOJ, or its attached agency the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), cannot be proactive in going after evidence due to the restriction imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war memorandum.
The presidential memo had named the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the sole agency in charge of his drug war.
'Zero deaths in TokHang'
Carpio’s line of questioning during the oral arguments focused on the loopholes of the anti-drug campaign. He even said that because government statistics pegged the current number of drug addicts at 4 million, “that means more Filipinos will be killed if we go after street-level addicts.”
Calida told Carpio that the reason why more street-level addicts are being killed was because “statistically, there are more people living in barangays than in Forbes Park or other swanky villages.”
"Shabu is a poor man's cocaine. Which is more, poor or rich? Naturally you focus on where the shabu is," Calida said.
Calida also got technical and said there has been zero deaths in the police's anti-drug campaign, Oplan TokHang.
“As far as we know none, because Oplan TokHang is not to arrest, it is to convince them to come back to the fold. The 3,806 deaths are legitimate police operations; they are buy-bust operations,” Calida told reporters afterwards.