PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday ordered a stepped-up campaign against marijuana producers and traffickers in the country who are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to particularly smuggle cannabis to Metro Manila.
“Drug traffickers are taking advantage of the pandemic under the mistaken notion that the PNP is more preoccupied with health concerns. Be warned. We will intensify operations and continue going after the syndicates, whether big or small,” the PNP chief said.
Next to shabu, marijuana is the most abused drug in the country with Cordillera region as its main producer. Marijuana being grown in the Cordilleras are mostly being smuggled to the Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions where they commend a price of as much as P5,000 a kilo.
Gen. Gamboa at the same time commended members of the police force responsible for the destruction of an estimated P60 million worth of fully-grown mariuana plants and seedlings found planted in clandestine cannabis plantation sites in Tinglayan, Kalinga and in Toledo City in Cebu.
Officials said uprooted during the series of recent marijuana eradication operations in the two regions over the past three weeks were nearly 290,000 pieces of marijuana crops.
The PNP chief also cited the seizure of nearly 200 kilograms of dried marijuana leaves in separate operations in Metro Manila, Antipolo City, Pampanga and in Quezon, Isabela.
Police Regional Office 3 director, Brigadier Gen. Rhodel O. Sermonia said that members of the PRO3 3rd Regional Mobile Force Battalion the other day intercepted a van found to be carrying 107 bricks of high-grade marijuana valued at P13 million.
Sermonia said officers gave chase after the driver and occupants of the van with plate no. CAO-5719 ignored a police checkpoint in Clark, Mabalacat City in Pampanga.
When intercepted, the suspects identified as Morgano Manalastas and Ronaldo Miranda, both residents of Angeles City were found to be transporting the banned crops.
On the other hand, National Capital Region Police Office director, Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas said that 33 kilograms of dried marijuana leaves were seized in an anti-narcotics operation in Antipolo City conducted by operatives of the Northern Police District headed by Brigadier Gen. Ronaldo Genaro E. Ylagan at 12:20 p.m. Saturday.
Sinas said members of the NPD District Special Operations Unit and District Drug Enforcement Unit arrested suspects Joseph Becoña,24, a resident of no. 283 Purok Maligaya 2 in Mambugan, Antipolo City and Idilio Saldaña,59, a production supervisor from no. 230 San Jose Street, Antipolo City during the sting conducted just beside the Flying-V gasoline station along Sumulong Highway.
According to Ylagan, the operation was triggered by an initial buy-bust operation at no. 601 McArthur Highway in Malanday, Valenzuela City which resulted in the arrest of Josaphat Velarde alias ‘Boss,’ a 29-year-old jobless resident of no. 7 Athens Building Chateau in Bgy. Lingunan.
Ylagan said Velarde yielded a kilo of marijuana and 78 grams of Kush, a high-grade marijuana derivative during the buy-bust operation around 11:20 p.m. Friday.
The NPD director said acting on information provided by Velarde, his men conducted the follow-up operation in Antipolo City in coordination with the local police resulting in the arrest of the two suspects and the confiscation of 33 dried marijuana bricks weighing a total of 33 kilos, the P40,000 worth of boodle money topped by a marked P1,000 bill, a cell phone used by the duo in making contact with the poseur and a motorcycle without plate number which they used in transporting the prohibited drugs.
The recovered cannabis in Antipolo City were valued at P3,960,000. Those seized in Valuenzuela City were worth more than P200,000.
In Quezon, Isabela, local policemen recovered 42 kilograms of dried marijuana bricks worth believed to have been abandoned by drug couriers along the Quezon Boulevard Botanical Park.