Fighting a shadow, battling ghouls

Part 3

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By Julius D. Mariveles and the DNX Daybreak Team

“Everbody happy”

BACOLOD CITY – What poor families can get from the government’s cash transfer program, a maximum of P21,000 a year pales in comparison to what their patron, the drug distributor, can give.

“It has become a way of life, justified by some as a result of poverty that forces people to look for an easy way out,” a lawyer here who campaigned for President Duterte in the 2016 polls said.

That “way of life,” he explained, has made drugs a “socially-accepted” means of earning, a view shared by anti-drug operatives who spoke to DNX.

In 2019, the police data here showed over-all crime volume going down by 35 percent. Index crimes or crimes against persons and property also went down by 42 percent.

The police also reported that drug seizures, however, since 2016 have been going up, along with the rising arrest of suspected high-value and street-level targets.

Which leads to the question: why are police not arresting any druglords, the “big fishes?”

Officially, various police officials say they have “identified” suppliers and the “bodegeros” but operations are still “ongoing” to arrest them and, eventually, charge them for crimes.

“We can identify them to the press but we will not achieve anything, we are being more careful now in building cases against them,” a senior police official told DNX.

HAPPY AND SILENT?

Police spokesman Ariel Pico noted a different kind of community participation when it comes to illegal drugs.

“People are more willing to give information when it comes to other kinds of crimes,” he said in a news conference this week on the killing of a village councilman linked to illegal drugs.

When it comes to drugs, however, he said “people are afraid to give information.”

“It seems difficult for them to share whatever they know,” he added.

Two of the anti-drug operatives, one a veteran who started in the days of the PNP’s Narcotics Command (NARCOM), said the “compartmentalization” of information of drug syndicates has become vastly improved over the years.

The information network and the warning system, for example, became stronger with the combination of human assets and the use of the Internet and mobile phones.

In intel speak, it is a combination of “human intelligence (HUMINT) and signal intelligence (SIGINT),” one of the operatives explained.

At the village level, pedicab and jeepney drivers, even children, form part of this information backbone as we have previously reported. (READ: Part 1 – Fighting a shadow, battling ghouls)

Does it mean the people sympathize with the drug syndicate?

Yes and no, they said.

Perhaps a major factor in the “cooperation” of people is the benefit they get from the syndicate.

Dalahig tanan sa kalipayan (everybody gets a cut),” was how one of the operatives described the atmosphere in one of the coastal villages where shabu is being sourced.

Those who are a part of the information network all get paid. Adults get up to P500 a day, children from P100 to P200, he said.

A child, for instance, who kicks an empty milk can to warn pushers of incoming authorities get a cut from the sale of shabu though the kid might not know it, the operative said.

(To be continued)

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