By Julius Mariveles and Mira Nicole Magbanua
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – “Come with me and I’ll show to you how I can buy shabu real fast,” a former drug dependent told this reporter late last year.
He stood up, stretched to his full height and motioned to the north.
“Mga tatlo lang ka poste halin sa dalan, patiha ko may ma-skoran ka daw (I tell you. Just three posts away from the road you can score),” he said, looking and sounding confident.
“Score,” refers here to a purchase of methamphetamine hydrochloride, known more on the street as shabu or the poor man’s cocaine.
Also known as “bato,” literally stone in Hiligaynon.
For the first two years under the Duterte government, drug users known to this reporter swear shabu was hard to come by.
Many shifted to marijuana that enjoyed a slight price increase as the supply of shabu was choked a bit.
This month, however, two shabu busts – one in the northern Negros city of San Carlos, a port city, and the other one here – seem to indicate that meth is still around and the illicit drug trade is still flourishing despite government efforts to stamp it out.
The San Carlos operation on 12 January, a buy-bust of the local police, the Provincial Drug Enforcement Group, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency led to the arrest of Joel Rizardo, a suspected High Value Individual in the list of drug suspects.
Authorities also seized around 1.5 kilos of suspected shabu with an estimated street value of P10.2 million.
Less than two weeks later, on 24 January, anti-drug operatives also seized suspected shabu on board a roll-on roll-off vessel at the private port at the reclamation area here.
The seizure of the contraband was the result of a random inspection that led to the discovery of suspected meth placed inside teabags stashed in the glove compartment of a sedan inside the RoRo boat.
Here, local police spokesman, Lt. Col. Sherlock Gabana said the two men caught with the contraband, Aslanie Disomangcop Usman and Jalanie Mohammad Ambulo are not on the watchlist of the police either as high value (HVT) or street level targets.
He told DNX last week that the two could be suppliers of drug peddlers in the city as they live in Village 2 long reputed to be a center of drug peddling.
It is also neighboring village of 1, the place where Jose Kim “Boy” Cuadra, declared by police more than a decade ago as the biggest druglord of this city.
Cuadra was convicted for drug trafficking in 2006 after he was caught bringing suspected meth in Malay town, Aklan province.
On 16 May 2020, his son, still unknown killers shot him dead in front of a private hospital where his wife was recovering from a stroke.
The investigation, however, is still “ongoing” until now, Gabana added.
In San Carlos, a port city 84 kilometers north from here, police are still probing Rizardo who could be supplying the 32 towns and cities in the province.
San Carlos police spokesperson, Lt. Abegail Donasco said they are looking deep into the supply and distribution links of Joel Rizardo, 24, who is the top drug personality in San Carlos.
Rizardo was arrested by police in Guadalupe village during a buy-bust operation.