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Drug addicts soar to 4-M; stars next in cops’ drive

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(Photo from Philippine Star / AP file photo, Aaron Favila)


DAVAO CITY/MANILA (via PhilAmPress)  ̶The illegal drugs menace facing the Philippines has been described as “very serious” by President Rodrigo Duterte as the number of drug addicts in the country has soared to 3.7 million to 4 million, not to mention the illegal drugs manufacturers, distributors, pushers and users.


“What am I supposed to do with the four million?” Duterte asked a gathering of policemen in Davao City last week as he rallied authorities to destroy what he called the “narcotics apparatus.”


Later, Duterte inspected a “mega” industrial shabu laboratory at the foot of Mount Arayat in Pampanga which is capable of “cooking” millions of pesos of shabu in a day. The President was accompanied by Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda during the inspection.


Police operatives arrested a Chinese national identified as Hong Wen Zheng allegedly operating the clandestine "shabu" laboratory discovered at the foot of Mount Arayat, this province.


Meanwhile, Duterte said that Sen. Leila de Lima is sure to go to jail for her alleged role in the operations of drug syndicates inside that National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City. De Lima, however, denied the allegations, including hiding P300 million seized from the drug lords in the Bilibid.


As the campaign to stop the illegal drugs menace is stepped up and the word war between President  Duterte and Sen. Leila over alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with the drugs war, a high-profile inmate was killed on Wednesday, September 28, while three others were injured in a riot inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.


De Lima immediately held a press conference denouncing the killing under the watch of her accusers and her perceived persecution by Duterte who has flown to Vietnam for an official state visit.


Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Erickson Balmes identified the fatality as Tony Co, a convicted drug lord while the three injured were Vicente Sy, Peter Co and Jaybee Sebastian, an alleged partner of De Lima in the drug trade based in the penitentiary who is supposed to be presented during the hearing of the House of Representatives.


The three injured inmates were rushed to Muntinlupa Medical Center for medical treatment.


Reports said Sebastian is in stable condition while Co is in 50/50 condition.


As this developed, the Philippine National Police stepped up its campaign against illegal drugs as it arrested in a buy-bust operation a former starlet in Quezon City and readied to investigate at least 50 celebrities and showbiz personalities who are suspected to be either drug users or dealers.


The PNP will be setting its sights on high value targets or drug lords in the next phase of its intensified campaign against illegal drugs, dela Rosa said.


Quezon City Police District director Senior Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar identified the ex-starlet as “Sabrina M.” who is Karen Salas Palasigui in real life, 36, of 9 Pulangui Street, Napocor Village, Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City.

Also arrested during the operation were Erwin Suba San Martin, 29, of no. 9 Pulangui St., Napocor Village, Brgy. Pasong Tamo, and Edwin Locsin  Coloma, 38, of Roque 1 Extension, Brgy. Pasong Tamo.

Combined elements of District Anti-Illegal Drugs-Special Operations Task Unit (DAID-SOTG) and District Special Operations Unit (DSOU) said Sabrina M. was collared around 11:45 p.m.outside her house while handing over the illegal stuff to a policeman-buyer.

“There are over three million addicts now in the Philippines, of late. Huwag mo na lang bilangin iyong (Don’t count the) 700,000, it’s going up. It’s going to reach a million mark by the end of this month; one million drug addicts plus three million reported by PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), it’s four million,” the President said.


“And if we cannot destroy the apparatus now it will really be a bigger problem in the future,” the President said.


The rising number of drug addicts also indicates “narcopolitics” has definitely entered the Philippine democracy, the President told police officers and personnel belonging to the Region 12 Police Office in Tambler, General Santos City.


The President said that from three million as earlier reported by anti-drug authorities, 700,000 more drug addicts have been recorded since the President assumed office last June 30.


The 700,000 included those who have voluntarily surrendered to authorities in various parts of the country at the onset of the Duterte administration’s intensified campaign against the drug menace.


The President said the four million mark is the same level as Indonesia, which has a bigger population.


“But while Indonesia has more than 300 million population, we have over 100 million and yet we share the same number of drug addicts at four million,” the President said.


 PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said the PNP is ready to place under “Oplan Tokhang” personalities in the show business industry allegedly involved in illegal drugs.


”Surrender na kayo kasi identified kayo na user, itokhang natin. Tinokhang nga natin yung mga high-end subdivisions dyan, sila pa na public figure sila. (These personalities should surrender because they have been identified as users. If we were able to put high-end subdivisions under Oplan Tokhang, what more these personalities who are public figures.) They should be open to the public,” he said.


According to dela Rosa, once the police gets hold of the list from President Duterte, police officers will subject the showbiz personalities under “Oplan Tokhang”, by knocking at their houses or even at the television stations to convince them to surrender to authorities.


Under “Oplan Tokhang”, the PNP visits residences of suspected drug users and pushers to give them a chance to turn themselves in and promise to stop their illegal activities, surrender or undergo rehabilitation.


According to Martin Diño, former Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) chairman and incoming Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman, 50 celebrities are in the drug list of President Duterte.

He said that some those on the list have already taken drug tests.


Last week, National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde confirmed that the police has a list of celebrities suspected of being involved in drugs.

Albayalde said that they were still validating the list.


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