Drugs not only in poor communities, but also in rich places

THE recent neutralization of a man tagged as Metro Manila’s top Ecstasy dealer as well as the arrest of two students of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and De La Salle University brings to light anew that the drug problem not only pervades in the country’s slums and poorest communities but also among the rich, those living in posh subdivisions and condominiums, celebrities and rich students included.

As of yesterday, my friends from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said they are still building up evidence against two celebrities, both big stars of a giant network whose names appeared in the mobile phone of John Steven Pasion, the suspected supplier of the designer drug called Ecstasy to the ‘rich and famous’ in Metro Manila until he was killed in a shootout with PDEA Special Enforcement Service agents in Manila last week.

One of my sources told me that one of the celebrities has been in their radar for quite some time now amid information that the latter is offering Ecstasy to friends in exchange for some extra pleasure. Right now, the PDEA is busy tracking down the main source of the Ecstasy pills and tablets being peddled by Pasion until he was shot dead.

But what is clear here is that the suspect is believed to be getting Ecstasy smuggled thru the country’s post office and courier service providers from The Netherlands and other parts of Europe and transacting them thru the so-called ‘dark web’ or a collection of websies that exist on a hidden network and in which his clients pay online.

In the wake of the release of the ‘narco-list’ containing the names of 46 politicians said to be involved in illegal drugs, Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III has called on the PDEA to might as well name the celebrities patronizing Pasion and added that big networks where the celebrities are working should go after them.

However, I think that the PDEA needs to build more evidence against Pasion’s clients including those from the networks before making their identities public, in particular the identities of the two who were said to be seen in the cell phone of Pasion, one of them even ordering 200 Ecstasy tablets and the other asking if he has available supply.

PDEA chair, retired Police General Aaron Aquino said that the pictures of the two celebrities who were already on their radar were also found in the same mobile phone although he admitted that those are not enough to pin them down.  Expect some celebrities to submit themselves to a voluntary drug test with TV crews in tow now that the PDEA is investigating some of their fellows.

Another thing, contrary to government critics’ claim that police are only going after drug dealers and users in poor neghborhoods specifically slum areas in Metro Manila and other parts of the country, the neutralization of Pasion as well as the arrest of two college students last Monday in Makati City is a proof that the war on drugs goes all the way to the top.

However, unlike in poor communities where surveillance operations can be easily conducted, undercover PDEA and police operatives are encountering difficulty when it comes to targeting drug activities taking place inside the country’s gated subdivisions, posh condominiums and exclusive schools and universities.

Unless an undercover agent knows somebody living in an exclusive subdivision or a pricey condominium, he  is always in danger of blowing up his cover once he attempts to penetrate the area. The same thing will happen if he tails a target in a posh hotel or an exclusive bar, say those in BGC.

Apart from being expensive, these areas are exclusive only to rich patrons and a stranger would easily attract attention. Entering an exclusive university or a school would also court the attention of students and so-called human rights groups.

Thus, commendations are in order for a Grab delivery driver whose suspicions proved to be true leading to the arrest of  Adriel Ryoichi Suzuki, a 24-year old student of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and Ralph Jeffrey Esteban,23, a student of DLSU. The arrest of the two is another stark reminder that drug trafficking and abuse do  not reign only in squatter areas  but even among the rich.

As NCRPO chief, Director Gilor Eleazar had said, the two’s arrest was triggered by the presence of mind of the Grab driver whom Suzuki had hired to deliver a box of cigarettes to an address at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City.  It turned out that when the courier picked up the package from Suzuki’s condominium unit in Makati City, the latter refused to tell him the contents of the box.

Suspecting it might contain drugs, the courier sought the help of the Makati City Police Station headed by Senior Superintendent Roger Simon. When opened by the Makati police, the box turned out to be containing suspected Ecstasy tablets. Eleazar said that the Southern Police District headed by Chief Supt. Ely Cruz and Simon supervised the follow-up raid at Suzuki’s unit where they discovered around 1,000 Ecstasy tablets.