Drug war grips Mindanao city, 28 killed in 2 years

MISAMIS ORIENTAL, Philippines – The illegal drugs trade in the city of Gingoog here has flourished so that the rivalry among syndicates has resulted in 28 deaths in the past two years, anti-drug law enforcers told local officials in a briefing this week.

This prompted Mayor Marie Guingona to ask the national police and the military to reinforce the city police to help combat the drug menace.

According to data presented by Emerson Margate, regional director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Northern Mindanao, there have been 28 drug-related killings in Gingoog from January 2013 to January 2015. 

He said 23 out of 79 barangays have category 2 drug problems. It means there are at least two drug pushers operating in each barangay.

The City’s Peace and Order Council convened with the Misamis Oriental Provincial Peace and Order Council on Thursday, April 16, to discuss the increasing threat to security by communist rebels and the growing drug trade problem.

PDEA identified 37 major personalities involved in the drug trade, but Guingona said there are at least 3 key players who run the syndicates.

The police believed that the spate of killings in the city is a result of a turf war between drug syndicates.

City police force not enough

City Police Director Superintendent Jamiri Jailani said the city police force is not enough to deal with the problem. The city only has 77 police officers manning its 79 barangays.

Jailani took the helm of the city police force only last April 6.

Misamis Oriental Police Director Police Superintendent Nilo Cabug said he had deployed 28 police operatives from the Police’s Regional Public Safety Battalion of the Regional Office and 15 police officers from the Provincial Public Safety Company.

During the council meeting, residents expressed their concern for security in light of the killings. The latest incident, on March 27, involved the assassination of Marc Anthony Bagaipo, a former city councilor.

“This needs to be a collective effort. Not the city government, not the police, not the military alone can solve the problem. All must work together,” Guingona said.

Margate said only small-time pushers are arrested in the number of anti-drug operations conducted in the city. Big players do not hold the drugs themselves. “All they hold is a phone, and they direct their operations through that.” 

Guingona said he is frustrated that although it's common knowledge that the 37 persons profiled by PDEA are indeed in the drug trade, evidence against them cannot yet stand in court.

The mayor said she had directed city police chief Jailani to strengthen the intelligence gathering on suspected drug traders.

Margate said a gram of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu is sold for P7,000 to P10,000.

Provincial help

The city has reactivated the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (BADAC) and trained the barangay tanods (village watchmen) on crime- and drug-detection. A Barangay Information Network has been created to give residents a venue for tipping authorities on suspected drug-related persons and activities.

Jailani said checkpoints manned jointly by the police and the army from the 58th Infantry Battalion will be set up across the city.

Meanwhile, Misamis Oriental Governor Yvgeny Emano said that the PPOC will help Gingoog City in dealing with the drug problem.

Emano has asked the provincial board to approve the release of at least P1 million to PDEA to serve as intelligence fund. 

The Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council will also pass a resolution, asking the Senate and the House of Representatives to amend Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and to provide stiffer and stronger penalties against drug syndicates. – Rappler.com