December 6, 2023

The discovery and busting of an apartment in Irisan, Baguio City where a lessor, a 51-year-old Chinese national, was found to have stored billions worth of shabu should heighten concern not only from concerned authorities but also the public in general.
It is an open secret that Baguio is a transshipment point of illegal drugs – usually marijuana. But never have we imagined that at some point, this mountain resort will be chosen as a storage point for the large-scale distribution of illegal drugs to different parts of the region or probably Luzon, as Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. revealed in a press conference, citing intelligence reports from the police and allied anti-narcotics enforcement groups.
Among its many names, Baguio always took pride with the fact that it has always been a wholesome destination, even as it is far from being the “perfect” or ideal locality. The city has its own share of problems especially those related to environmental degradation and societal issues, including drug peddling, but the seizure of 575 kilos of shabu may have greatly compromised the city’s reputation as a peaceful tourist destination and as an educational center.
The DILG secretary further revealed the suspect, said to be under the auspices of a drug syndicate, has long been under surveillance but the scant details he gave elicits more questions despite the widely covered accomplishment of the operatives who led the confiscation of P4 billion worth shabu and filing of charges against the suspect.
How long has the suspect been in Baguio? Is there someone else aside from him living in the apartment? With the duration of the suspect’s stay in Baguio, were the operatives able to find out if the contraband were already distributed for retail or was the function of the city apartment limited to “repacking”? Who is/are involved in the web of distribution?
The operation was led by operatives from the National Capital Region and “coordinated” only to local authorities including the city mayor hours before the implementation of the search warrant. Does this mean that local anti-narcotics personnel were unaware that in their midst, kilos of shabu are being repacked to be retailed?
We are not undermining the process the authorities took in their effort to address the widespread problem on drug trade. We also understand that in cases such as this, information should be confined to only a few. In fact, we admire them for following protocol – investigate first, secure a warrant from the court, arrest the suspect, preserve evidences, and file charges. No shortcuts. No blood spilled. But we hope that with the SILG’s revelation about a drug syndicate, more will be indicted in the coming days.
Arresting one and destroying billions worth of contraband are indeed accomplishments, but the drug haul in Irisan barangay is minute compared to the expanse operations of a syndicate. The suspect might just be an “errand boy” not even the drug lord, which we think anti-narcotics authorities still have to run after as obviously, the previous bloody war on drugs failed to curtail the illegal drug trade. It only gave rise for manufacturers and distributors to innovate so as to continue their trade.
The illegal drug trade persists in the country for until now, the root causes of the problem have only been partially addressed. Some even become bolder as foreigners with Filipino contacts are able to enter the country to establish drug manufacturing plants.
We hope the series of illegal drug hauls in the country will not just be media fodder. Authorities should be able to communicate especially to those involved in the illegal drug trade that while this administration may have taken a different approach in addressing the problem on illegal drugs, there should be no let up in the “war on drugs” by ensuring that sources are destroyed and all people involved should be brought to justice without fear or favor.
Meanwhile, the city government should reexamine and strengthen its anti-illegal drugs campaign to prevent another incident where the city’s repute and security are compromised. The presence of a “warehouse” in the city only shows that stakeholders, which include the community, have been nonchalant about the presence of suspicious activities.
To be able to achieve a peaceful city, active involvement of the public is paramount. And this can only be achieved if every community member shows concern about what is going on around them.