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ORAL ARGUMENTS ON DRUG WAR

Why not focus on drug smuggling? Calida says gov’t can’t police an archipelago


Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday questioned why the government’s campaign against illegal drugs seemed focused on stamping out retail operations when port authorities could stop the entry of the contraband.

At the resumption of the oral arguments on the consolidated petitions against the drug war, Carpio suggested the government could stop the demand for the illegal drugs being sold in the streets if the supply issue is addressed.

“Why is the policy to go after retail and not bulk importation?...If you stop the supply then there is no more demand," Carpio said.

He said those involved in drug importation were Filipino-Chinese and Chinese citizens.

Calida, in response, pointed to the challenge of guarding an archipelagic state like the Philippines.

“Unfortunately, our country is an archipelago. These shabu or metamphetamine hydrochloride are dumped into the sea your Honor and somebody will get it from the high seas. So we cannot police an archipelago. There are so many places where it can be transported to. It need not pass through the Bureau of Customs,” he said.

In September, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said he had received reports that as much as 70 percent of the illegal drugs in the country slipped through bulk shipments in the seaports.

Lapeña made the statement four months after joint operatives from the Bureau of Customs and National Bureau of Investigation seized 602.2 kilograms of shabu that were sourced from China.

Calida, however, declined to discuss his take on the seizure of the P6.4-billion drug shipment saying the case is still under investigation.

The solicitor general also insisted that the government was going after all drug players in response to Carpio’s observation that the campaign was “concentrating on street level operations and practically ignoring the big-time drug lords.”

"Actually, your honor, the instruction of the President is to go after all of them. However, the big-time Chinese drug lords are outside our jurisdiction. They are in China," Calida said.

Calida also disclosed during the hearing that 419 Chinese nationals linked to illegal drugs have been arrested by the police, but he could not say whether if all of them were drug lords.

Carpio, meanwhile, directed Calida to submit a detailed report on the 3,806 deaths attributed to anti-drug operations carried out by the police.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino, who had been asked to appear at the hearing, were a no-show because they are in New York for an anti-terrorism conference.

The PNP was represented at the oral arguments by Police Director Augusto Marquez Jr., chief of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management.  —NB, GMA News